Dolphins monitored closely since deaths

April 08 2000 at 12:07AM

The loss of three dolphins in 1995 was a turning point for Bayworld which resulted in much soul-searching and an in-depth evaluation of priorities, said Bayworld director Sylvia van Zyl.

In the 18 months before the deaths, Bayworld had been surrounded by "intrusive" construction activities on two properties, Van Zyl said.

"This construction brought with it unrelenting noise, dust and plastic pollution and, on completion, resulted in a spate of unauthorised nocturnal intrusions into the dolphin's environment by irresponsible and thoughtless youths.

"It is believed that these events had a role to play in Simo's behaviour - swallowing foreign objects - and the unsuccessful treatment of Thandi's abscess."

The circumstances and consequences of dolphins' deaths had been given full and urgent attention by the museum's management. Advice was sought from far afield and a marine mammal vet was flown in from Belgium, unfortunately too late.

"Every possible effort was made to treat the discomfort and illnesses of the two dolphins."

Their deaths had precipitated intensive attention to the health-monitoring protocols.

Changes in husbandry practices were now in place and would identify behaviour and symptoms of ill-health long before a crisis point was reached.

She said the decision to continue with the dolphin programme had been taken to alleviate the social isolation of the remaining two animals. They could not be released into the wild because they were born in captivity.