Police are investigating the deaths of two dolphins from a Swiss aquarium. The dolphins died following a techno rave that was held at the facility earlier this month. The first dolphin, Shadow, was found dead directly following the event, which led experts to suspect the cause of death was stress related due to the deafening music being played in close proximity.
It has been well documented that loud music is known to bother dolphins and other marine mammals in captivity who navigate by echolocation, which entails bouncing sonar waves off other objects to determine location, shape and distance. The confined tank walls create an environment where the reverberations from their own sonar cause great stress. Back in October, Senior Vice President of PETA, Dan Matthews, attended a fundraiser at the Georgia aquarium and witnessed the effect first hand. While observing beluga whales, he witnessed one “squirming and twisting” more than the others. He asked one of the aquarium staff members whether the music bothered them, which she replied, “Well, yes. Especially the males―as soon as the music starts pounding, they go nuts and start attacking the harbor seals in the tanks.”
Just two days after the death of Shadow, another dolphin, Chambers, suffered a “drawn out painful” death. According to the aquarium keeper, Chambers began drifting under the water, shaking and foaming at the mouth. Even a shot of adrenalin didn’t help, Chambers died one hour later. This has led experts to suspect that perhaps rather than noise being the cause of death, the dolphins were poisoned by narcotics that were dropped in the tank by someone in attendance. While the result of the deaths would not be stress related, this is simply another concern that arises when you expose aquarium life to settings and crowds that arguably should not be in an aquarium.
Instances like this have resulted in many experts and activists vocally objecting to aquariums holding events inside facilities that will expose the marine mammals to loud music. PETA Germany had initially objected to the event, and asked the aquarium to cancel it, and is now poised to file a lawsuit. Just this past week, a petition was circulated online in an attempt to stop a fundraising event at the Miami Seaquarium that was slated to be playing music from 8:00PM-4:00AM. While people can protest and raise awareness about the effects of loud music in close proximity to marine mammal tanks, there appears to be a valid need for laws that will constitute these actions as abuse and torture. Perhaps the sacrifice made by Shadow and Chambers will be what is needed to get the wheels turning.