The mere mention of Bayworld and dolphins in the same sentence is guaranteed – to use animal kingdom parlance – to set the cat among the pigeons.
There are indeed far greater and pressing issues to which Nelson Mandela Bay citizens – and those running the metro – are forced to direct their attention on a daily basis, and yet somehow this captivity debate will always touch a raw nerve here more so than elsewhere.
And that is because it is such a sweet and sour issue.
For generations of visitors, the once gleaming oceanarium – and indeed the city itself – were synonymous with a family (somewhat orchestrated) of treasured dolphins which both delighted crowds and showed off a spectacle of nature in the most heartwarming of ways.
But those remarkable demonstrations of intelligence and feats by these agile creatures belied a much darker reality. That of essentially caged animals being forced to perform tricks and enduring who knows how much physical stress and anxiety – no better than the lot of circus animals, which these days is so roundly condemned.
So the consideration by the Mandela Bay Development Agency of possibly reintroducing dolphins as part of what no one disputes is a vital revamp of this once grand attraction, is a veritable tinderbox.
While many hanker after the days when it was such an entertaining and educational drawcard, Bayworld – which no doubt still has massive potential as a strategically placed marine park – must reinvent itself along lines which are more acceptable in terms of its eco friendliness.
And this is why the suggestion of developing a rehabilitation pool for marine mammals is one that strikes an equitable chord – similar to the splendid work that Samrec is achieving at Cape Recife.
In any event, it is critical citizens now engage with the ensuing Bayworld public participation process so that the best outcome is achieved.