Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Dubai attraction launches probe into woman riding dolphin in video

Footage of her sitting on the mammal on a hard poolside floor has sparked public anger

One of Dubai’s most popular marine attractions has launched an investigation after a video emerged of a dolphin allegedly being mistreated on its premises.

The footage shot at Dubai Dolphinarium showed a young woman sitting on the back of a dolphin on the hard poolside floor before riding it into the water.

It led to an outcry with many people condemning her behaviour.

“The management is investigating the video. We cannot talk about the video while the investigation is ongoing," a spokeswoman for Dubai Dolphinarium told The National.

The attraction offers packages that allow guests to "hug, kiss & dance with these incredible mammals" for Dh630, according to its website, though the behaviour in the video goes beyond that.

If people were more informed about what animals really are, their biology, social life, ability to understand and feel, I am sure they would behave differently

Dr Ada Natoli, UAE Dolphin Project

Campaign group the Dolphin Project were among those to speak out.

“The video was uploaded by one of the facility's dolphin trainers of another trainer sitting on top of a captive dolphin on a slideout, an action that can put serious stress on their bodies,” the group said in a post on its Instagram page, alongside the video.

“What's possibly more worrisome is that the trainers thought this behaviour was acceptable enough to upload online.”

Dr Ada Natoli, a biologist and founder of UAE Dolphin Project, said the incident fed into a broader debate about animals in captivity.

“If people were more informed about what animals really are, their biology, social life, ability to understand and feel, I am sure they would behave differently,” she said.

The person who posted the video appears to have deleted her account.

“How is this person not fired and charged with animal endangerment and animal cruelty?” said one Instagram user called blueeyedvegan.

Others questioned whether such behaviour was allowed by the dolphinarium, which subsequently disabled comments on its posts.

“This goes to prove that staff at aquariums and zoos don’t give a damn about animals,” said payadbhaita.

Another user, nata1ie333, said the footage in the video was shameful.

“If you can afford to live in Dubai, you can get out to the Arabian Peninsula, learn how to snorkel or dive and see dolphins in the wild where abusers can’t train or ride or stifle them.”

Last month, Virgin Holidays said it would halt sales and promotions of five captive whale and dolphin holiday packages across the world, including at the five-star Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai.

Atlantis would not comment on the action but SeaWorld, which has attractions in San Diego and Orlando and on Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas, claimed it was an example of how animal activists “mislead and manipulate marine mammal science to advance their agendas".

Updated: August 1, 2019 04:01 PM