Five dolphins discovered 'starving' at abandoned tourist park near luxury hotel

Eight dolphins have reportedly died, and experts believe others need urgent food and medical attention.

Left - Ric O'Barry staring at a dolphin at the abandoned park. Right - a dolphin in the water at the park.
Five dolphins are alleged to be starving at a crumbling Bahamas dolphin park. Source: Ric O'Barry

Dolphins have been discovered languishing inside a decaying tourist park that shut its doors during the Covid-19 pandemic and never reopened. The five surviving animals are reportedly suffering from malnutrition and dehydration but efforts to assist them have been blocked.

A further eight animals are understood to have died, three of them from starvation. They were originally brought to the Blackbeard Cay in the Bahamas so cashed-up tourists could pay to swim with them, but now the abandoned facility lacks electricity, running water, enrichment or shade.

Experts from non-profit Dolphin Project have labelled it a “horrific situation” and called on the Bahamas government to allow it to intervene and provide critical assistance including food and medication.

Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry spoke to Yahoo News from a temporary base in Florida on Monday (local time). Having seen the situation at Blackbeard Cay firsthand he described the animals were “very, very underweight”.

The conditions are a far cry from those inside the luxury the Sandals resort, a hotel unaffiliated with the dolphin park, that sits a short boat ride across the water. Video shows the boardwalks are now devoid of tourists and loud hungry seabirds have taken over.

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A Sandals hotel map with the dolphin park location marked on the side.
The luxury Sandals resort is just a short boat ride from the dolphin park. The two are not affiliated in any way. Source: Sandals

When O’Barry travelled to the island he was warned to stay away from the abandoned tourist park. “They keep telling you not to go over to that corner of the island where all those trees are,” he said.

During his visit, he discovered there was just one full-time employee looking after the dolphins. “He’s been with these dolphins for eight years… He has no electricity whatsoever, he’s like a homeless guy living on the island,” O’Barry said.

But O'Barry was determined to investigate, and once inside he had no regrets. He believes the dolphins were being underfed and the food prepared on unsanitary surfaces — it was hotter in the freezer than outside.

“I was shocked,” he added. “It’s so beautiful out there on the island, the water is gin-clear. But that doesn’t work in their favour because the water is too shallow and in the summer time it heats up. They really suffer” he said.

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In April, Dolphin Project met with government ministers, but communication then suddenly stalled. The charity has successfully collaborated with Indonesian authorities to rehabilitate and release dolphins in Bali, and it believes it can do the same in the Bahamas.

“We have offered to buy them fish and get them first aid – they need veterinarians,” O’Barry said.

“I first went there on March 31, and I didn’t want to blow the whistle on them. I wanted to give them every benefit to do the right thing. And they just ignored us hoping we would go away. And now, here we are.”

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