Animal commission proposes circus ban in Turkey
Engin Esen – ISTANBUL
A parliamentary commission has signed a report proposing to prohibit animal circuses and dolphinariums across the country.
The report, prepared by the parliamentary Commission to Investigate Animal Rights, also recommended the closure of existing animal circuses and recreational dolphinariums within two years.
“For now, this is just a recommendatory report. It is not a legally-binding document,” said Öykü Yağcı, spokesperson of the Freedom for Dolphins Platform, which made a presentation to the parliamentary commission in May.
“So, we will continue to follow the process until a legislative regulation is made,” she told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
Across Turkey, there are 10 dolphinariums and aquaparks where marine mammals, such as beluga whale, walrus and sea lions, are kept in captivity and forced to entertain visitors. They have operated in Istanbul and in Aegean and Mediterranean resort towns, including Kuşadası, Bodrum, Marmaris, Belek and Alanya, since around 2005.
Projects to open new animal circuses in Istanbul and the Aegean province of İzmir were recently canceled due to public outcry initiated by animal rights groups. A lawsuit demanding cancellation of the license of a dolphinarium in Bodrum is on the agenda of the court of appeal.
The Association of Marine Mammals and Dolphinariums, an umbrella organization of the animal circus operators, was also invited to the parliamentary commission.
“Those animals can live for 40 or 45 years in our aquaparks although their lifespan is around 17 to 20 years in their natural habitat,” İsmet Parmak, vice chair of the animal circus association, told the commission in June.
“It is not possible for an unhappy animal under persecution to live for such a long time. Moreover, it is not right to deem these places as recreational centers. It is possible to observe visual shows of the animals in their natural lives as well,” he added, underlining that some 900,000 domestic and foreign visitors enter the animal circuses in Turkey every year.
Parmak recalled that the aquaparks are also used as part of therapy for disadvantaged individuals – a claim Yağcı strongly opposes.
“It is alleged that dolphins are used to treat autism and Down syndrome patients. We have been told by many experts and trustworthy nongovernmental organizations that there is no scientific finding supporting that claim,” she said.
There are some other gray areas in the field of aquaparks, export of the animals coming first.
Yağcı said that the animals are brought to the country from Japan and Russia, where hunting marine mammals is legal. In the customs specifications, the animals were falsely reported as common dolphinfish, which is not an aquatic mammal but a fish species, or they were claimed to be brought in for scientific reasons, she added.
The Freedom for Dolphins Platform has found out the import of some 30 marine mammals from Japan through the United Arab Emirates by simply looking into the documents of the CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), of which Turkey has been a signatory since 1996.