Conny-Land head says workers killed dolphins

The director of Conny-Land in the canton of Thurgau now believes that two former employees killed two dolphins at the Lipperswil zoo and amusement park in a bid to shut down the marine attraction.

Conny-Land head says workers killed dolphins
Dolphins at Conny-Land's lagoon (Photo: Conny-Land)

Roby Gasser told the Nordwestschweiz publication that the deaths of the marine mammals in November 2011 were not accidental.

Conflicting reports followed the death of the dolphins, called Shadow and Chelmers, which coincided with a rave party for thousands of clubbers that was held on land rented from Conny-Land.

A toxicology report leaked in May indicated the dolphins were likely killed by a heroin substitute.

They died within five days of each other after a long period.

Gasser said that rather than an incident connected to the party, he believes the dolphins were deliberately killed by the former employees, who worked as animal keepers.

“These people have changed camp,” he told Nordwestschweiz.

“They now work for German animal protection organizations.”

Gasser believes they are the only ones who would have known what food the dolphins liked.

He said the dolphins that died were male and were particularly targeted because of their genders.

“The Swiss law for the protection of animals no longer allows us to import this kind of species,” Gasser said.

“And the females cannot reproduce without males.”

Prosecutors were initially considering negligence charges in the dolphin deaths because they believed antibiotics given by zoo vets were to blame.

But later tests by a Saint Gallen forensic institute showed traces of Buprenorphin, a heroin substitute, in the mammals’ urine.

Such an opiate may have caused the dolphins breathing difficulties.

Justice authorities in Kreuzlingen are declining to comment on Gasser’s views.

Conny-Land continues to offer a dolphin attraction using an artificial lagoon consisting of an 81-metre long basin, 35 metres wide and six metres deep, which the operator says cost more than 1.5 million francs.

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Zoo backs heroin theory in dead dolphins case

The head of the Connyland wildlife park has confirmed a newspaper report suggesting that two dolphins who died after a rave near the zoo last November may have been given a heroin substitute by party-goers.

Zoo backs heroin theory in dead dolphins case
Connyland (File)

Connyland chief Erich Brandenberger told Swiss media the park has seen the veterinary report that formed the basis of the poisoning claims laid out in the Sunday edition of the NZZ newspaper.

A toxicology report leaked over the weekend suggests that the two dolphins, Shadow and Chelmers, did not die as a result of the antibiotics administered by their vets as has previously been alleged.

Tests showed that a substance called Buprenorphin, which is used a heroin substitute, was found in the urine of the two dolphins that died at the park last November, online news site 20 Minuten reported. 

“Opiates are extremely dangerous for underwater mammals and would never be used in any legitimate treatment,” dolphin expert Cornelis van Elk, told the Daily Mail news online.

This has reawakened earlier theories about the cetacean deaths, which pointed to the fact that a big rave party had taken place close to the site where the dolphins were kept.

It was at first thought that one of the party-goers had fed drugs to the animals, but this idea was dismissed and the vets were blamed instead, the Daily Mail reported.

Dolphins are conscious breathers, which means that they have to decide when to come to the surface to breath. Even when sleeping, part of a dolphin’s brain is dedicated to serving this basic requirement. Opiates may well interfere with these systems, with fatal consequences, van Elk said.

Prior to the event, animal activists warned of the potential consequences of holding the big party so close to the animal park, but their protests went unheard.

Now the Swiss zoo association has decided to support Connyland against a threatened action to ban dolphins.

In a recent letter to politicians, the association argued that if activists have their way and succeed in removing dolphins from the park, the chances are high that they would soon lobby for other exotic animals to be removed too.

The Green Liberals have criticised the zoo association’s support of Connyland, describing the conditions that the dolphins are kept in as “deplorable”.

Prosecutors are continuing to investigate the case.