Welcome to UK Dolphinaria Archive


Cetacean (whale and dolphin) keeping in the UK actually goes back considerably further than one might imagine with historical references to porpoises being held at The Brighton Aquarium and beluga whale being display at the Westminster Aquarium.

In contemporary times the first two purpose built aquaria for cetaceans where built in 1963 at Flamingo Park Zoo in Yorkshire and at Marineland built in the northern sea-side resort of Morecambe.

Dolphin keeping ceased in the UK in 1993 with the last three female dolphins at Flamingoland being relocated to European facilities.
It is popularly promoted by animal-rights groups is that cetacean keeping has be banned and is illegal in the UK. This is not correct.

In 1985 - after concerns raised about the care of cetaceans in the UK by various animal and environmental groups - the then Department of the Environment (now part of DEFRA) commissioned biologists Dr Margaret Klinowska and Dr Susan Brown to research and review the keeping of these animals in UK zoos and aquaria (see below note regarding the UK's Zoo Licensing Act).  Klinowska and Brown's report 'A Review Of Dolphinaria' was published in 1986 with various recommendations to be implemented by those holding captive cetaceans by no later than 1993. The authors did have the authority to recommend that cetaceans should not be held in captive care if their research supported such a position. However they did not and  maintained that these animals could be successfully kept in animal collections provided they were given the right conditions.  They stated:
“...No substantial contra-indications to the keeping of cetaceans have been found which would not apply equally to the keeping of any other wild-caught animal...This is not to say that there are no problems with cetacean keeping, only that the problems are not dissimilar to those encountered in wild-caught animal husbandry in general, and could be solved...”


One of the conditions in A Review of Dolphinaria was related to pool dimensions. Whilst some facilities complied with pool size and area none reached or exceeded the suggested minimum depth standards for the species held; for bottle-nose dolphins this depth of at least a third of the pools size should be 7 metres (23 feet). Ironically Marineland Morecambe one of the first facilities to display these animals had a main pool which was 5.53 metres (18 feet) deep with Flamingoland's main pool having a depth of 4.6 metres (15 feet).

However by this time only three dolphinaria remained and all would have to rebuild and/or extend their existing facilities to be able to publicly display animals after 1993.

Windsor's holding company had financial problems and went into receivership in 1992. The site was acquired by Legoland Theme Parks and the animals in the park where rehoused; the dolphins going to Harderwijk Marine Mammal Park.

Brighton Aquarium's lease was sold to the Sealife Centres group in 1990 and the two dolphins and the dolphin 'Rocky' from Morecambe's Marineland became part of a dolphin release project called 'IntoThe Blue'.

Flamingoland was the last facility to house dolphins and did plan to build an extension to the existing dolphinarium to comply with the new keeping regulations but this did not come to fruition and the dolphins were moved to aquaria in Europe.

It should be noted that until the UK's Zoo Licensing Act which came into force in 1984 there was no legally enforceable standards of husbandry for any captive wild animals let alone cetaceans. It should be also noted that of the many dolphinaria linked on the site were not extensive, purposes built facilities with some being very temporary in nature and existed for just few summer seasons and would not be consider appropriate or legal by modern day animal keeping standards

 Further information on the contemporary care of whale and dolphins in captive care can be found at our sister web site MARINE ANIMAL WELFARE.


Many of the photographs and information on this site have been donated and the web master wishes to thank the following people:

Peter Bloom - Martin Allen - Debbie Drumstick - Denis Steele - Keith Reaney

To this end please note the photographs on this web site may not be used without permission of the web master and remain copyright of the respective owners.

If anyone has any photos and other information they would like placed on the web site please contact me. Email Link

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