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Initiative calls to abolish dolphinarium

Tampere's Särkänniemi amusement park is one of only two places in the Nordics that has a dolphinarium. The aquarium has stirred backlash in Finland for years, and now a new initiative is calling for its abolition once more.

Turisti kuvaa delfiiniä Särkäniemen delfinaarion altaan ääressä.
Even visitors to Särkänniemi have stayed away because of the dolphin situation, says CEO Miikka Seppälä. Image: Yle

Councils, demonstrations and campaigns to end the captivity of dolphins in Särkänniemi, Tampere have popped up consistently in Finland for the past two decades. The newest move to abolish the amusement park's dolphinarium – one of only two in the Nordic countries – is a citizens' municipal initiative that aims to gather 4,000 signatures.

The man behind the project is Kristo Muurimaa from the animal rights organisation Oikeutta eläimille.

"Our view is that the Tampere dolphinarium should be shut down as quickly as possible and the animals freed," Muurimaa says.

Importing wild sea creatures banned

Muurimaa defines a delphinarium as a place where wild predators from the sea live in a 700 square metre pool. He justifies his definition with the fact that the original dolphins were brought to Finland from the wild off the US coast where they hunt.

"They cannot do anything close to that in an environment the size of a pool," Muurimaa says.

He says that the dolphinarium is a relic of the 1980s. Animal rights policy has developed in the past 30 years in such a way that dolphinariums could not be established today.

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry issued a statement in the 1990s saying that importing marine creatures living in freedom is not allowed," Muurimaa says.

'Retirement homes' for dolphins

Muurimaa says that his organisation is working on so-called retirement homes for the dolphins once they are freed – vast stretches of sea where the dolphins can still be monitored to make sure they do not starve.

"Animals that have lived in captivity their whole lives don't necessarily know how to hunt for their food, this way we can set them free but keep an eye on their wellbeing," Muurimäki says.

The Oikeutta eläimille initiative aims to demand that the city of Tampere do something about the ageing dolphins that are still an entertainment number at Särkänniemi.

Särkänniemi CEO Miikka Seppälä says that the amusement park has in fact seen a dip in visitors, and that one cause is probably one of the reasons.

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