Dubai: Authorities in Dubai are investigating an incident of alleged animal cruelty after video emerged on Wednesday of a woman seen riding on the back of a dolphin on the hard poolside floor of Dubai Dolphinarium.
Dubai Municipality on Thursday confirmed to Gulf News that it is investigating the incident, which has been widely criticised by animal welfare groups.
The woman’s action is a brazen example of “animal cruelty”, international animal welfare groups said.
A dolphin’s body is not adaptable to any pressure outside water. Pressing the abdomen of a dolphin to the floor can easily harm its internal organs.
The 10-second video posted on Instagram late Wednesday showed the woman, who appears to be a trainer, riding on the back of a dolphin for six seconds before the mammal wriggled into the water.
According to Instagram user @cetacean.inspiration, an animal welfare advocate who posted the video on his account, the video was shot and posted by dolphin trainer IG: @aurelia_1534.
Gulf News contacted Dubai Dolphinarium on Thursday but was told to wait for a statement as the facility is currently “waiting for Dubai Municipality’s decision. Municipality is handling the case”.
Although Dubai Dolphinarium is a privately managed entity which opened in 2008, it is located inside Dubai Creek Park, which falls under Dubai Municipality’s remit.
Dr Elsayed Ahmad Mohammad, Mena Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, expressed his concern about the condition of the dolphin.
“It is well known that the body of dolphins is very sensitive. Its body is always swimming freely in the water. The dolphin’s body is not adaptable to any pressure outside water. Pressing the abdomen of the dolphin to the floor can easily harm its internal organs. If you punch the abdomen of a person, you can imagine how painful it is,” Dr Mohammad told Gulf News.
Although the woman did not sit on the mammal for too long, the act was still unacceptable, he said.
“Regardless of whether it’s a few seconds or not, it’s wrong. It is animal cruelty,” he said.
Dr Mohammad said facilities that hold animals such as cattle farms, poultry farms, zoos, and circuses should be regularly monitored by authorities to draw their attention on what is allowed and not allowed for dealing with animals.
He said the UAE Federal Law No. 16 of 2007 on animal welfare prohibits animal abuse.
According to IG user @cetacean.inspiration, the video was a “worrying and rather disturbing footage”.
“This disgusting behaviour is not only dangerous for both the dolphin and the trainer, but it could cause severe harm. Bottlenose dolphins, who can weigh an upward of 630lbs, are not designed to be on land, as their bodies cannot support their own weight,” the post read.
“After only a few minutes, their weight begins to crush their internal organs and muscles. Now add the weight of an adult woman on top of that - this dolphin is literally being crushed.”
Dubai Dolphinarium is a popular attraction that offers visitors the chance to watch dolphins demonstrate circus-style tricks while on water. It also offers visitors the chance to swim with dolphins through a “dorsal fin tow or belly rides”. Visitors can also hug, kiss and dance with the mammals under the guidance of trainers, according to its website.
A highlight of the Dolphinarium’s show features trainers riding on the dolphin’s noses like a surf board as it swims across the pool.
However, this act is tantamount to abuse, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The non-profit organisation in June this year called on US theme park SeaWorld to “stop trainers from abusing dolphins by riding on their backs and standing on their faces”.
It also discouraged the public from paying to swim with dolphins in July.
Virgin Holidays also pulled out of selling holiday packages to five resorts that include captive whale and dolphin experiences last month, including Dubai’s five-star Atlantis, The Palm hotel. Atlantis have yet to comment on the matter.