Eight dolphins dead and five starving at abandoned Bahamas park where tourists paid to swim with them: report

The living dolphins are cared for by a single staff member while suffering dehydration and malnutrition, activists say

Katie Hawkinson
Wednesday 08 May 2024 16:40 BST
Related video: Dolphins spotted swimming in River Thames after making way to London

A resort in the Bahamas that shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic is responsible for the deaths of eight dolphins and the neglect of another five, a dolphin conservation organisation has claimed.

Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, a dolphin welfare non-profit, claims the resort Blackbeard Cay, also known as Balmoral Island – located in the Bahamas – is responsible for eight dolphin deaths since 2018. A total of 13 dolphins were at Balmoral Island, where they were brought in 2013 for tourists to swim with, according to the organisation.

The report said eight of these dolphins died since 2018, with five dying in 2023 alone.

The organisation’s founder, Ric O’Barry, made his first trip to the island on 31 March and reported his observations about the survivors.

Dolphins, like those pictured swimming above, were reportedly abandoned at a Bahamas resort after it shut down for the Covid-19 pandemic
Dolphins, like those pictured swimming above, were reportedly abandoned at a Bahamas resort after it shut down for the Covid-19 pandemic (AFP via Getty Images)

“The five survivors are in a world of trouble from everything I have seen,” Mr O’Barry said in a statement. “From critical food (and water) deprivation to lack of critically needed shade, and electricity, from potential hazards within the dolphins’ enclosures to lack of proper medical care, it would be more appropriate to state that survivors are living a nightmare.”

Balmoral Island is a “private beach island”, according to the resort’s Facebook page. On 26 May 2020, the island announced it was closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is unclear if any part of the private beach island has reopened since. The last post on their Facebook page is dated 17 June 2020.

While the report describes the resort as “abandoned”, the organisation says there is still a full-time caretaker watching over the dolphins.

“He’s been with these dolphins for eight years,” Mr O’Barry told Yahoo News of the caretaker. “He has no electricity whatsoever, he’s like a homeless guy living on the island.”

Mr O’Barry claims there is no electricity on site, and that the surviving dolphins appeared malnourished and dehydrated. He also said the resort’s “infrastructure is in complete disrepair” and there is no shade available for the dolphins.

“Any one of his grievous observations... could be considered animal abuse,” the organisation wrote. “And any one of them could have been responsible for the high number of dolphin deaths.”

Now, the activists are asking the Bahamian government to intervene and save the five remaining dolphins, according to their report published Monday.

The organisation is working with the environmental activist Sam Duncombe on this effort.

The report says Ms Duncombe last spoke with Jomo Campbell, the Bahamian minister of agriculture and marine resources, on 15 April. The report then claims Mr Campbell said the Dolphin Project would be granted access to the resort to help rescue the five living dolphins.

However, the organisation says they haven’t heard back since.

“The government of the Bahamas has a unique opportunity to ”get ahead” of the horrifying and heartbreaking reality surrounding the deaths of one of the world’s most beloved animals,” Ms Duncombe said in a statement.

The Independent has contacted Balmoral Island, Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project and the Bahamian Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources for comment.

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