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Switzerland bans import of dolphins

The National Council decided finally on Tuesday to ban the importation of dolphins or whales to Switzerland.

Switzerland bans import of dolphins
Ville Felvin (File)

“This is a great victory,” Isabelle Chevalley, Councillor for the Green Liberals who led the campaign for the ban, told newspaper Tribune de Genève.

Currently Connyland is the only animal park in Switzerland where cetaceans are kept. Activists have been campaigning for twenty years to shut down the dolphin show there.

Chevalley managed to convince some of her right-leaning colleagues also, enabling her to bag her first parliamentary success.

Three lone dolphins remain, after the controversial deaths of two dolphins last year. The Council of States, the lower house, voted to allow the remaining dolphins to live out their days in their current home, and on Tuesday the National Council reached the same conclusion.

But the lawyers working towards the imposition of the ban have said that the goal will be to have the dolphins removed altogether.

“Today, no-one would go to see tigers locked in a concrete cage,” Chevalley told the paper.

Not all politicians agree with the dolphin ban, believing it will pave the way for the introduction of bans on other animals.

“Recently, 300 dolphins died in the Gulf of Mexico in total indifference, versus only two in recent years in Switzerland,” Oskar Freysinger for the Swiss People’s Party told the newspaper.

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Villages across Swiss Alps set to fight proposed base jumping ban

A proposal to ban base jumping in the Bernese Highlands has drawn criticism, with locals countering claims that the extreme sport is dangerous.

Villages across Swiss Alps set to fight proposed base jumping ban
Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Kiener Nellen, a National Councillor in Bern, has instructed the Federal Council to consider a nationwide ban on the practice. 

Nellen said that the dangerous sport was harmful to Switzerland’s reputation, while also putting local rescue staff at risk. 

Nellen told the Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen broadcasting company that base jumping ”endangers the reputation of Switzerland’s tourism industry and the Bernese Highlands”. 

An average of 4.5 deaths per year

More and more base jumps take place in Switzerland every year, with more than 30,000 completed in 2018.

While base jumping is becoming a more established practice, it remains unsafe. 

READ: British base jumper dies in Lauterbrunnen

Four people died base jumping in 2017 in Switzerland, down from nine in 2016 and ten in 2015. A total of 81 people have died in Switzerland since 2002, an average of 4.5 per year. 

'Not thoughtless weirdos'

Several have spoken out against the ban, arguing that the practice is becoming safer – and that it is crucial to the local economy. 

Aside from the money spent by the base jumpers when they stay in Switzerland, they are also required to buy a ‘Landing Card’. 

The money from these cards is paid back to local farmers who offer their properties as landing pads and began as an initiative of the base jumpers themselves. 

Base jumping. Michael Mathes / AFP

Annette Weber, who works at a cafe in the Bernese Highlands, told Swiss online newspaper Watson that the stereotype of irresponsible, risk-taking base jumpers was not accurate. 

“They’re not half-wild weirdos who throw themselves thoughtlessly off the cliffs,” she said. 

“It would be totally ridiculous to criminalize base jumping.” 

Lauterbrunnen Mayor Martin Stäger (SVP) agreed, saying that a ban would be not be effective. 

“The base jumpers mostly stick to the rules in our valley,” he said. 

“A ban would be completely counterproductive. How can such a ban be controlled?

“Then people would just jump at the unofficial, more dangerous places.”

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