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Dolphin death toll rises in Connyland

Gecko performs at the Thurgau recreational park Keystone Archive

The controversial Connyland dolphinarium in Thurgau has been hit by another dolphin death, prompting calls for the park to be closed.

Fourteen-year-old Gecko is the third dolphin to die at Connyland recreation park in the last 18 months.

In July 2000, a dolphin died within days of birth after suffering from a heart malformation. One month later, another female produced a stillborn baby.

A former Connyland trainer, Graziella Bianca, announced Gecko’s death by fax and email from the United States.

Pneumonia diagnosed

In the most recent case, the male dolphin died of pneumonia during the festive season and an autopsy showed that mushrooms were lodged in his intestines, which could have activated his illness.

According to the vet involved in the investigation, the dolphin did not die of a cold.

Controversy over conditions at Connyland has resurfaced after Gecko’s death.

“It was bitterly cold in his tank for a very long time,” said Noelle Delaquis, president of the Working Group for the Protection of Marine Animals. Much of Switzerland has been plunged into frigid temperatures over the last month.

“It appears the dolphins were kept in a tank designed for sea lions, which did not provide protection from the cold weather,” the organisation said in a statement.

“The chest infection which Connyland said was the cause of death, usually comes about as the result of too many chemicals in the water,” the statement continued.

Pool conditions

The Connyland vet said none of the three dolphins suffered from cold conditions in their pools. The pools were covered with a tarpaulin and heated.

Delaquis, however, said the coverings came too late.

After the two baby dolphins died, the Marine Life organisation and 25 other animal protection associations asked for the closure of the dolphinarium, which is the only one in Switzerland to keep the mammals.

Gecko was the youngest adult dolphin at Connyland to die. The female Chiqui was 16 years of age, two other males were 18 and 19 years old and one female was more than 20 years.

Dolphins in the wild live between 25 and 50 years, but this is an optimistic estimate, according to the Connyland vet. Dolphins kept in captivity live to six years on average, according to “Dolphin Project Europe”, an organisation which opposes keeping dolphin in captivity.

swissinfo with agencies

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