On the occasion of the reappearance of some well-known "environmentalists / animal lovers" who, upon the enactment of the law on animal protection, criticized again with empathy and false defamatory accusations Attica Zoological Park and its hosting of the dolphins, we would like to clarify the following:
From the first moment we supported and welcomed the enactment of the law on the protection of all animals, domesticated and wild, that comes to modernize, complete, improve and update the legislative framework, making it more effective and efficient. This is a step that contributes not only to the protection of animals, but also to the overall promotion of animal welfare as a culture, a purpose which is consistent with our philosophy. Clear proof of this is that the international organization that has certified us (EAZA * - European Association of Zoos & Aquaria), of which we are a member since 2002 by maintaining the highest standards of care for our animals, is the initiator and main lever of pressure in Brussels for a variety of relevant animal welfare legislation at a European level since 1999.
It is a pleasure to hear of the ban on use of animals in circuses, a practice that causes their hardship and downgrade, without any educational value whatsoever, and discredits the efforts made by organized groups, like our Park, to strengthen the public’s respect towards all animals.
In addition, the enacted law is a testament to the -obvious to us as the only officially licensed organization to promote the issues of global wildlife in our country- separation of Zoological Parks from wandering circuses and theaters, with criteria that concern the conditions under which the animals live, their welfare, care, treatment and, in general, respect for animals, thus acknowledging the importance of our role, which in its core is also educational.
We want again to clarify that at Attica Zoological Park no animal "shows" take place, since it is contradictory to our philosophy and practice. On the contrary, what we do is raise awareness and cultivate environmentally our visitors through educational presentations that acquaint them with marine mammals hosted in our Park (equivalent to the educational birds of prey presentations and the informative feeding sessions of various mammals), during which visitors learn about the physiology of marine mammals (or birds, mammals, etc) and the risks they face in Nature because of human behavior, passing on effectively the message of ecology and respect for animals. We consider the animals we host (who are born here or in other Zoological Parks and live in optimal conditions) worthy ambassadors of their kind in nature, raising awareness and, perhaps, motivating them to press governments to respond with equivalent legislative work. Hence we honor our animals with respect and hard work, ensuring for them the best possible living conditions.
The educational nature of our work is always essential and diverse: from anonymous and selfless support of several environmental organizations with substantial field work of preservation and protection of Greek fauna, to the financing of publications aimed at sensitizing the public to animal welfare (the book IN THE PARK WITH THE ANIMALS which was published with our help, recently won the prize of the Ministry of Culture for "The Best Children's Knowledge Book”). Our work is indeed recognized by teachers of the 75,000 students who visit us each year, by over 10,000 disabled people whom we host for free, by the thousands of parents who bring their children to the Park, as well as by countless surveys executed over the years by reputable organizations in Greece and abroad. The most recent one, published in the U.S. and conducted by the prestigious Harris Poll in a representative sample of the entire US population, proved once again the strong public opinion that close contact with animals in Zoological Parks is the best way for kids to understand the world of animals. Specifically, 97% (!) recognizes the important role of Dolfinaria, Aquaria and Zoological Parks "because they teach children about vital issues of marine mammals", "animals that children will hardly have a chance to see in Nature" or sympathize and understand through documentaries on TV. And 94% agree that "children are much more likely to care for animals if they see them and learn about them in Zoo Parks" and also that "the visit to the Park can inspire action and involvement in Conservation of Species, which can then help the marine mammals (and specifically the dolphins) and their marine environment. "
Returning to the allegations of the few self-styled "ecologists" (who somehow have found refuge in the political party Ecologists-Greens) on the alleged illegal importation of our dolphins, we are tired of repeating that these complaints are all totally inaccurate, as our dolphins have been transported legitimately, accompanied by all documents required by intra-Community animal transportation legislation. Moreover, we have complied with all provisions provided in international conventions for the protection of animals, sparing no costs. Equally inaccurate are the accusations of our allegedly illegal facilities. Each complaint or allegation to the contrary constitutes reason for us to pursue court action for slander. Here we should recall the recent rejection by a Greek court as inadmissible, the appeal of the same persons and organizations for the closure of the facilities housing our dolphins.
The militant attacks we are facing by some people who, for the sake of publicity and to promote their personal interests, sacrifice our sincere efforts to inform the public and increase awareness of the need to protect biodiversity, do not intimidate us. We become their target because we are one of the major sources of "Environmental Awareness" in the country (maybe that's what bothers them), aiming to sensitize the general public and certainly the younger generations, to the considerable problems that the world of fauna faces. The communication of environmental and animal welfare sensitivities from preschool and school age and the acquaintance by hundreds of thousands of citizens with the miracle of Creation, for us is a purpose in life and our moral duty. We will continue to conduct with candor our cultural work, which is the result of private initiative (with purely private capital, without any government help or financing, unlike the majority of Zoological Parks in the western world) and strong devotion to the real practical care for animals, for which all 72 dedicated Park employees are proud of!
These few members of the Green Ecologists delete, hide and distort blatantly all of the above, using the same repeated falsehoods for almost two years now! The pretext of “unethical” living of these dolphins in our Park (which is outside their environmental and animal welfare logic) is actually against existing laws and internationally accepted standards. Obviously, if they don’t ignore it, they hide the fact that 26 capitals and major european cities host dolphinaria, where dolphins live in model conditions and, at the same time, provide unique scientific knowledge and effective awareness to society and thereby, ultimately achieve increasingly more effective protection for their relatives in the wild who suffer from human activity. They want to present our Zoological Park as an illegal enterprise, violating every concept of legitimacy, abusing dolphins for the entertainment of visitors, solely for the purpose of profit! Which, of course, has no relation to reality whatsoever, as evidenced by our balance sheet, our professional activities, countless thank-you letters that we receive daily from visitors, enthusiastic teachers and, most importantly, by the endless smiles of children around our Park every single day!
We therefore invite the authoritative and serious Ecologists-Greens to explore the impression we have made on the numerous visitors of our Park and, specifically, our dolphinarium. It is certain that from the responses received, they will wonder whether the criticism exercised by a minority of their Party, but in its name, is correct and objective, and thus sincere and desirable. Unfortunately, this fanatic war is inappropriate for an organization- guardian of animal welfare and environmental conscience. Unless of course they reserve for themselves infallibility and consider the hundreds of thousands of our visitors underdeveloped torture viewers, upon whom they must enforce their own environmental ethic. It is worthy of wonder how none of them deals with real and countless incidents of violence against animals that we all witness around Greece (goats and donkeys with tied feet all over the countryside, 'barrel dogs' and 'balcony-dogs', open wildlife markets in Schisto and elsewhere, numerous illegal pet shops, dolphin and seal shootings by uninformed fishermen, etc), but aim to create one-dimensional problems for our Park with lies and misinformation! We hope that the official leadership of this major and important political movement will thoroughly investigate the source and cause of this unjust attitude and will deal with the truth, thereby restoring their credibility. We are equally, if not more, confident that the audience with its infallible criteria will understand who truly serves the truth and society and, through actions, everyday expresses his/her ecological conscience.
* With over 5 million students per year who receive scientific training in maintenance of global wildlife, EAZA is one of the biggest non-government networks in the world in science education. EAZA members contribute annually more than 2,5 billion euros to the european economy and spend over 100 million euros every year for the preservation of endangered species and for maintenance of critical habitats and their ecosystems. Perhaps it is indicative that the majority of Zoological Parks/ members of EAZA, contrary to our country, are supported by leading universities, animal welfare organizations, the municipalities to which they belong, as well as the Ministries of Education and/or Culture of most European countries. Please note that only the Zoological Parks which are members of EAZA (less than 20% of all European Zoo Parks) serve the educational needs of more than 210 million visitors annually!