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Russian marine mammals’ show likely to begin in Karachi on 20th

Russian marine mammals’ show likely to begin in Karachi on 20th

KARACHI: Karachiites will soon see five marine mammals, two pairs each of bottlenose dolphins and sea lions, and a beluga whale, in action at the Maritime Museum, where preparations are under way for the show likely to open on Aug 20.

Recently transported from Russia, 15-year-old Tim (male dolphin), six-year-old Mona (female dolphin), 10-year-old Mysa (male sea lion), seven-year-old Moorka and six-year-old Neeka (female beluga whale) are becoming acclimatised and getting ready for the forthcoming event.

During a practice session on Friday, dolphins, guided by their trainer, were seen performing different acrobatic movements. At one point, one of them disobeyed the trainer’s instruction and swam away instead of coming up close to the platform to perform.

“It’s absolutely normal. Everything is new for them and they will take a week or so to feel comfortable, though the weather conditions here are similar to what we have back home these days,” explains Vladimir Pugovkin, the animal trainer who has come to Karachi for the first time with his three-member team less than a week ago.

“We can start the show today but the animals won’t enjoy it. It should be a game for them,” he added.

Part of the animals’ adaptation to the new environment, according to trainers, includes their feed, and organisers are trying a combination of different frozen fishes to see what suits them best.

“We have carefully increased their [dolphins] feed to 10kg daily (per animal). Sea lions are being fed with Indian mackerel,” Mr Pugovkin said.

Positive reinforcement, he said, played a key role in taming animals.

To a question regarding the concerns of animal rights activist who believe that captivity has extremely damaging effects on the animal as they go through mental, emotional and physical stress, he said: “These animals are caught from the wild and I agree with them [animal rights activists] that they should be allowed to live in their natural environment.

“But, I also believe that the life of these captive animals is far better than those which are hunted and killed in the wild or even those raised on farms and killed for meat purposes.

“We should provide animals with better conditions in captivity and make their life more interesting.”

It is the second time the city is hosting a marine mammal show. The last held in 2014 received a good public response and ran for months.

Mohammad Riaz representing Sea World, the Pakistan-based company which has partnered with Russia-based Kislovodsk Dolphinarium to organise the show in Karachi, was optimistic that the lineup would attract more people this time.

“The number of performing animals has increased from three to five. Besides, people will get to see synchronised movements between the dolphins when they will perform together, something which was missing earlier,” he said, pointing out that the white whale was larger this time, about four meters long.

To a question, he said that the show was earlier planned on Aug 14 but now would tentatively start from the 20th.

“The delayed arrival of the team led to a change in schedule. Initially, there will be two shows a day, one for children in the morning and the other in the evening,” said Mohammad Riaz, adding that the price of the tickets for children would range between Rs300 and Rs350, while the price for adults would be decided later.

“The company has a two-year contract with the Russian company but the show’s continuity is dependent on their success as it is pretty costly to provide and maintain the right conditions for animals that includes 24-hour operation of a filter plant and chillers,” he said.

Listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, bottlenose dolphins are found in tropical oceans and other warm waters around the globe. They were once widely hunted for meat and oil (used for lamps and cooking), but today only limited dolphin fishing occurs. However, dolphins are threatened by commercial fishing for other species, like tuna, and can become mortally entangled in nets and other fishing equipment.

Listed as a near threatened species, Beluga whales are distributed throughout seasonally ice-covered arctic and subarctic waters. They inhabit waters off the shores of Russia, Greenland, Canada, Norway and the United States (Alaska).

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2016

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