Troubled waters at a New Zealand zoo

Marineland, an aquatic zoo that is one of New Zealand's leading tourist attractions, is embroiled in a bitter row about its performing dolphins. The four dolphins at the zoo in Napier, on the north island's sunny Hawke's Bay, delight hundreds of tourists daily with their antics. But they have survived capture, adapted to captivity, and formed a relationship with the trainers that turned them into tame performers.

Others have not been so fortunate. Ten of the 17 dolphins the zoo has taken since 1972 have not survived. Another three did not respond to training and were released. When one recently succumbed a month after capture, it was too much for some Marineland staff and the National Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The zoo's assistant superintendent, Robin Stewart, resigned in protest. The head trainer and her assistant were suspended after they supported Mr. Stewart's stand. They called for an independent inquiry into the zoo's suitability to catch dolphins.

The ministry canceled Marineland's permit to catch six dolphins, saying it would have to apply each time it wanted a new animal and would face ''the most stringent conditions possible.''

Frank Robson, a world authority on dolphins and whales, said the solution was for Marineland to breed its own dolphins in captivity. But the zoo chairman, Sir Peter Tait, said there was no intention of changing the policy of capturing dolphins from the wild. ''No dolphins, and there is no show at Marineland,'' he said.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.