Animal Conservation

Animal advocates call for withdrawal of Mediterraneo Park zoo license

Animal Liberation Malta has written to the Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Welfare asking her to withdraw Mediterraneo Park’s license to operate a zoo.

The park, according to the organization, should become a rehabilitation center for aquatic species.

The letter follows the lead poisoning deaths of three dolphins at Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq Park last year.

Mediterraneo offers a program that allows customers to swim with captive dolphins for 30 minutes, against payment.

Malta banned animal circuses in 2014, but Mediterraneo is classed as a zoo – which animal rights activists say doesn’t hold water.

Guests who swim with the dolphins in the park are provided with equipment, including a wetsuit and weight bags.

The weight bags are filled with hundreds of small lead balls, which are believed to have caused the death of the dolphins.

Spilled pellets may have been caught in the filtration system and end up back in the pool when the system has backwashed, Malta weather had reported a source saying.

The park accused a support diver of misplacing the weight bag that caused the deaths.

Malta’s Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina said she was investigating the deaths.

Activists pushing for the closure of Mediterraneo argue that the animals there undergo specific training to be exhibited at paid public performances – something that should fall under the circus category as stated in the definition of a circus in Chapter 439 animal protection law.

According to the law, a “circus” is “any place where animals are introduced for the purpose of performance, maneuvers and shows or otherwise and includes any place where animals used in such circuses are kept or trained”.

Animal Liberation Malta said the provision of a zoo license to Mediterraneo Park places a public institution in default of the law.

“Since a permit has always been issued, Mediterraneo Park operates completely legally. This legality comes through a license which we believe was improperly issued by the licensing authority under your ministry,” he wrote in his open letter to Parliamentary Secretary Alicia Bugeja Said.

“ALM therefore believes that the responsibility for the default rests with the licensing authority and your ministry.

“We hope the unnecessary delays in zoo regulations are not made to change the law to allow animal circuses to perform locally.”

ALM asked Bugeja Said to “intervene immediately” and ensure that the animal protection law is applied and respected.

“We ask you to take the necessary steps for the immediate withdrawal of the license to operate as a zoo…

“Animal Liberation Malta believes that the Maltese Government should be at the forefront of safeguarding the welfare of cetaceans and marine life and that their protection should be given priority, particularly by your Secretariat which is also responsible for the welfare -being animal and not just fishing.”

Mediterraneo, the organization said, should develop into a rehabilitation center for aquatic species where true conservation can take place, making Malta the only leading Mediterranean rehabilitation centre.

The case, the organization said, is being actively supported internationally by British NGO Marine Connection and the US-based Dolphin Project.

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