Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Instagram issues abuse warning against content at Dubai Dolphinarium

Advisory comes after images of dolphin's treatment are condemned

Dolphins perform stunts at Dubai Dolphinarium in 2008. Paulo Vecina / The National 
Dolphins perform stunts at Dubai Dolphinarium in 2008. Paulo Vecina / The National 

Instagram has issued a warning to users searching for images of Dubai Dolphinarium, saying they may be exposed to content containing of animal cruelty.

The popular Dubai attraction was widely condemned last week after footage emerged of a woman sitting on the back of a dolphin on the hard poolside floor before riding it into the water.

The establishment said it was launching an internal investigation after the video was attributed to one of the trainers at the facility.

Dubai Municipality said it too was investigating the incident as the dolphinarium is based in Dubai Creek Park, which it owns.

“Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals and their parts is not allowed on Instagram,” read a message from Instagram that appeared to anyone searching for #dubaidolphinarium.

This image greeted Instagram users who were searching for content tagged #dubaidolphinarium on Tuesday.
This image greeted Instagram users who were searching for content tagged #dubaidolphinarium on Tuesday.

“You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment.”

The social media giant introduced the content advisory scheme in 2017. It stops users from immediately seeing posts that may contain animal abuse or behaviour deemed harmful for the environment when searching using a hashtag. The message gives users the option to cancel their search, learn more about Instagram’s animal protection policy or to continue and show the potentially offending posts.

When the system as rolled out, Instagram called on users to report any content that may breach their community guidelines. It is unclear if the advisory message appeared on posts tagged #dubaidolphinarium after users complained about the content.

“We encourage everyone to be thoughtful about interactions with wild animals and the environment to help avoid exploitation,” the statement from Instagram said.

The video taken at the dolphinarium last week showed a woman in a black wetsuit on the back of the dolphin, as the person shooting the video urged her, in Russian, to “at least hold onto his tail”.

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

The footage led to an outcry from people who were critical of the behaviour of those in the video.

Campaign group the Dolphin Project was among those leading the complaints.

“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.”

The attraction offers packages that allow guests to "hug, kiss & dance with these incredible mammals" for Dh630, according to its website.

“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,” said Dr Ada Natoli, a biologist and founder of UAE Dolphin Project.

Updated: August 7, 2019 04:02 AM

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