Not only does Spain keep whales and dolphins in captivity, it has the largest collection of dolphinaria within the EU. There are 11 dolphinaria in the country, many located in the tourist “hot-spot”, holding around 97 reported cetaceans in captivity. The majority of the captive cetaceans in Spain are bottlenose dolphins, though two dolphinaria keep beluga whales and orcas. At least 4 of the dolphinaria in Spain offer swim-with-dolphins and dolphin encounters where members of the public are allowed to get close and touch the dolphins.
Oceanografic in Valencia was established in 2003 and is one of the larger, more modern aquariums in Spain. It currently retains a reported 13 bottlenose dolphins, 10 of which are wild caught. It is also reported that 6 male bottlenose dolphins have recently been transferred from Oceanografic to other dolphinaria and aquariums within the EU.
Oceanografic also holds a pair of wild caught beluga whales, originally captured in Russian waters and previously held in Argentina. The female, “Yulka”, gave birth at the juvenile age of 8 to a male calf on the 3rd of November 2003, which sadly died 25 days later. It is believed that the inexperienced mother was unable to produce milk and the calf did not take to artificial milk given to him by trainers and suffered severe health problems which lead to his premature death.
Loro Parque in Tenerife reportedly holds 9 bottlenose dolphins in captivity, 4 of which are wild caught. In 2006 Loro Parque imported 4 captive-born orcas, 2 male and 2 female, on loan from Sea World parks in the US. In October 2010 the young female orca “Kohana” gave birth to a male calf, but rejected the calf shortly after birth, leading to the trainers at Loro Parque to hand-rear the calf. It’s possible that Kohana, who was taken away from her mother at just 3 years old may have never learnt the necessary skills to care for her own young. The tragedies extend to the human trainers too, in 2007, a trainer from Loro Parque was hospitalised after she was dragged to the bottom of the tank by an orca, suffering damage to her lung and broken bones. In December 2009, whale trainer Alexis Martinez was killed when he was rammed by a 14 year old orca at Loro Parque during training for the Christmas show. This tragedy preceded the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World in the US in February 2010.
Spain is Party to ACCOBAMS, Agreement of the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area, and all dolphinaria in Spain are included in the national zoo law but with no specific legislations on dolphinaria.
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