KARACHI, Nov 21: Experts have called upon the government and the agencies concerned to withdraw the decision of holding dolphin shows in Karachi, which, they said, would neither be beneficial to the animals nor general public.

The concerns have been raised in view of the recent media reports according to which two private organisations, The Talent Broker International (TBI) and their international partners Utrish Dolphinarium Inc, plan to organise dolphin shows in Karachi in collaboration with Pakistan Navy.

The shows to be held for the first time in the country comprise a series of dolphin shows for public entertainment. Four bottlenose dolphins and two sea lions are scheduled to be brought to perform 160 shows next month for which construction of a big performance pool is already under way at the Maritime Museum.

In a position paper launched on Wednesday, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) states, “We strongly recommend to the government and concerned agencies to re-consider the initiative and look into the matter in more detail. There are sufficient opportunities for public to see wild dolphins off the shore of Pakistan, especially Karachi. They can be observed without too much effort or expense and the experience is much more rewarding.”

Highlighting the status and conservation threats to the cetaceans, the paper says that 12 species of dolphins and whales inhabit the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Pakistan, in moderate numbers. At present, major threats to these marine species include the indeterminate use of illegal fishing gears (in which they are caught as a by-catch), ghost nets (discarded nets in the sea that trap and kill endangered species) and ship strikes.

“These harmful practices and habitat degradation on account of pollution have further brought the population of these marine species to a level where recovery seems difficult in the absence of rehabilitation action plans for the species at risk.

“A concerted effort for better management of habitats is needed to prevent further loss of the priority species and areas. As for cetaceans, they are at the top of the food chain and are critically important in maintaining balance in the ecology of the area,” it says.

The paper also provides an insight into the nature and behavior of dolphins. “They can swim for 40 miles a day. The adults interact with pods and among themselves especially while hunting. They have an incredibly developed brain function and are intelligent. Bottlenose dolphins have the brain size of a 17-year-old human. When they are just nine, they have their own distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and have the innate ability to learn languages; their own and – even more remarkably – a rudimentary symbol-based language created to bridge the communication chasm between dolphin and the human species.”

Dr Mauvis Gore representing the Marine Conservation International, a global partnership formed by marine scientists, said circuses with animals were being phased out as the conditions for animal welfare and husbandry were often atrocious. Being moved about under stress, cramped conditions, performing in a tiny arena packed with loud noises did not provide the animals with reasonable living conditions.

“It also gives the public the impression that these animals are there to perform for the public and at their whim. So rather than teaching the public to respect them as wild animals, they are placed in a fish bowl and treated as toys.

“Pakistan is being introduced to their key marine wildlife in a way that could take generations to re-educate,” she said while responding to an email by Dawn.


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