May 9, 2012
Rave Drug Believed To Have Killed Dolphins
Brett Smith for RedOrbit.com
The grisly deaths of two dolphins at a Swiss theme park is shrouded in mystery and accusations as investigators attempt to determine what exactly killed Shadow and Chelmers, two of the park´s biggest aquatic attractions.
According to various media reports, the dolphins died five days apart in November of last year while swimming in their tank at Connyland Marine Park in Switzerland. Their deaths occurred shortly after the space next to their tanks was rented out for a weekend rave attended by thousands. Initial theories pointed to stress-induced trauma caused by the proximity of loud electronic music.
However, a toxicology report from a forensics institute in St. Gallen, Switzerland, which was leaked to Swiss media, showed traces of the heroin substitute buprenorphine in the dolphins' urine. This information immediately spurred theories of the dolphins being dosed either accidentally or on purpose by party goers.
To survive, dolphins must decide to swim to the water´s surface whenever they need to take a breath. This instinct to breath is so strong that even sleeping dolphins have a subconscious mechanism in their brains that forces them to the surface. Experts say that a dolphin under the influence of opiates would have this mechanism disrupted and would be unaware that the dropping levels of oxygen in their blood need to be replenished.
Shadow was the first to die, immediately after the party. This dolphin´s passing spawned the initial death-by-stress theories. Five days later, Chelmers was found swimming and acting erratically in the dolphin tank; park staff told the media that both Shadow and Chelmers suffered a long and painful death.
“The death went on for over an hour,” Connyland keeper Nadja Gasser told local media.
“It was horrendous. I have not been able to sleep since. When we went to start the dolphin training, we noticed the same thing that had happened to Shadow was happening with Chelmers.”
“He was drifting under the water and was clearly in trouble and so we jumped into the water. We tried to hold him. He was shaking all over and was foaming at the mouth. Eventually we got him out of the water. His tongue was hanging out. He could hardly breathe.”
“He was given adrenalin, but it didn't help.”
“After an hour (Chelmers) died.”
Animal activists had warned the park and event planners that holding the rave so close to the dolphins would cause the animals harm. They were primarily concerned about the loud music´s effect of the dolphin´s hearing and sonar abilities.
Park owner Roberto Gasser told the Huffington Post that "(The dolphins) died two weeks after the party, so the party had nothing to do with it at all. This is an untrue story let out by animal activists which might be the cause of the death of our animals."
Gasser also said that signs of forced entry were found at the food preparation area. The Huffington Post quotes Gasser as calling the deaths an "attack" and "a planned strike."
According to Change.org, the deaths of Shadow and Chelmers bring the total dolphin deaths at the Connyland Park to eight in the past three years. Dolphins living in captivity typically live 30 to 35 years.