The four dolphins of Särkänniemi have been relocated to Attica Zoological Park in Greece

Tampereen Särkänniemi Ltd. decided in October 2015 to discontinue dolphinarium activities and close the Dolphinarium situated in Tampere, Finland. The four bottlenose dolphins of Särkänniemi Dolphinarium, Veera, Delfi, Leevi and Eevertti, have been transferred to Attica Zoological Park, located near Athens in Spata, Greece on August 28th, 2016. The transfer went according to plan.

The new location has been selected by European marine mammal veterinarians and experts, with the wellbeing of the animals being the top priority in the selection process. Making the final decision took longer than expected, since the best solution for the animals was carefully and thoroughly researched.

“This decision was the best alternative for Särkänniemi’s dolphins. The dolphins will now have bigger living spaces and a dedicated staff providing them with all the care that they need. We have heard a wide range of experts in this field and researched all possible alternatives. This location also received a unanimous and binding recommendation from the Species Committee of European Endangered Species Program (EEP)”, explains Särkänniemi’s CEO Miikka Seppälä.

The EEP ruling binds Särkänniemi

Attica Zoological Park is committed to continue Särkänniemi’s work in taking good care of the animals. The relocation of the animals to a new park was gratuitous, meaning that neither party benefitted from the transfer financially. Särkänniemi received a unanimous decision from the Species Committee of EEP, operating under the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), to relocate the animals to Attica Zoological Park. The decision in question binds Särkänniemi, since EEP is responsible for overseeing all matters related to endangered species and dolphins. The EEP species committee consists of highly experienced marine mammal veterinarians and other experts. The Finnish and Greek authorities granted all CITES permissions required for the transfer in June 2016.

Transferring animals and bringing them to a new environment always involves risks. Särkänniemi has done a thorough and vast risk assessment and is prepared to deal with any surfacing issue with the help of international marine mammal experts, veterinarians and Attica Zoological Park Dolphinarium staff. To successfully execute the transfer Särkänniemi received help from highly experienced international animal transfer experts that are now in Greece to aid the dolphins adjust to their new home. Särkänniemi’s own dolphin trainers are also at Attica Zoological Park making sure that the animals are readjusting themselves properly to their new environment.

More space for the dolphins

Attica Zoological Park is a member of the international organizations EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and EAAM (European Association of Aquatic Mammals). Together with EAZA the park actively participates in 29 programs under EEP. Since 2004 the park has used the International Species Information System database where EAZA and WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) gather detailed information from their registered members, including but not limited to: animal offspring, behavior and veterinary medicine. Attica Park offers a vast selection of educational activities and collaborates with educational institutions in Greece.

The dolphin pools of Attica Zoological Park were built in 2010. The dolphins can access four pools at the park. One main pool that is larger and comes with a shoal area, two smaller pools that are both partially covered, and a small medical treatment pool for emergencies. The pools hold 5 million liters of purified natural sea water, which means that the pools are double the size of Särkänniemi’s. At Attica Zoological Park the dolphins participate in educational presentations, but the park doesn’t hold any performances solely for entertainment purposes. There are four other dolphins, in addition to those transferred from Särkänniemi, currently living in Attica Zoological Park.

Attica Zoological Park’s Dolphinarium has 24 years of marine mammal experience. The Dolphinarium Supervisor has over 20 years of experience in caring for marine mammals. Moreover, the Dolphinarium has five more trainers, a veterinarian and additional assisting staff. Särkänniemi’s CEO, Särkänniemi Dolphinarium Supervisor and the Dolphinarium’s veterinarian visited Attica Zoological Park in the summer 2016. One of Särkänniemi’s longest serving dolphin trainers has also been involved in accrediting Attica Zoological Park’s Dolphinarium earlier in the past as a part of an international expert group.

Särkänniemi Dolphinarium

Särkänniemi Dolphinarium operated from 1985 to 2015. During these three decades approximately 200,000 people visited the Dolphinarium annually. Two of the dolphins, Leevi (1993) and Eevertti (1996), were born at Särkänniemi. The oldest two, Veera and Delfi, were brought to Särkänniemi originally from the USA coastline.

“We know that both the fans of the dolphins and our staff will dearly miss Veera, Delfi, Leevi and Eevertti, especially those people who have excelled in taking care of these dolphins for so long,” Särkänniemi’s CEO Miikka Seppälä, explains. “Since it wasn’t possible for the company to continue its dolphinarium activities, we unfortunately had to make this decision. We trust that this is the best solution for the dolphins, since the pod would inevitably shrink over time, and we don’t want gregarious animals to be left without the company they need. Attica Zoological Park is committed to taking good care of these animals.”

Dolphin retirement homes non-existent

There has been a lot of public discussion about sending Särkänniemi’s four dolphins to different kinds of retirement homes or natural water sanctuaries. None of these suggested places exist as of yet, nor are they currently under construction. There are no concrete designs nor any kind of realistic timetables available for these projects. Despite thorough research no suitable dolphin retirement home was found within Europe, United States or the rest of the world.

“Dolphin retirement homes do not exist. I’ve had several confidential discussions about these alternatives, but there is no information available on when they will actually be built. I have consulted both Finnish and international animal rights organizations, and none of them had an actual solution to offer. The relocation to Greece gives Särkänniemi’s dolphins a good place to live under the sun”, explains Seppälä.

The transfer of the dolphins went according to plan. Animals are currently adjusting to their new environment. During the adaptation phase Särkänniemi’s veterinarians and trainers are staying with the animals in Greece to make sure that they are readjusting themselves properly to the new living conditions.

More information:

Tampereen Särkänniemi Oy

CEO Miikka Seppälä, miikka.seppala@sarkanniemi.fi, phone: +358 20 7130 201

Attica Zoological Park

Founder Jean Jacques Lesueur, jjl@atticapark.gr, phone: +30 210 6634724
Veterinarian Tania Monreal Pawlowsky, phone: +30 210 6634725