A trainer at Dubai Dolphinarium is being investigated for alleged animal abuse after video emerged of her sitting on the back of one of the animals.
The footage, captured at the UAE tourist attraction last week, shows the female trainer sitting on a dolphin’s back for around six seconds before it dives into a pool.
Experts said the stunt could easily have damaged the dolphin’s organs because the mammals cannot support their own body weight outside of water, so adding the weight of a human on top of that risks causing serious harm.
Campaigners identified two trainers who they said were responsible for the video, both of whom have since deleted their accounts.
A spokesman for the Dolphinarium, which opened in 2008, confirmed that an investigation was underway but refused to discuss it further.
‘The management is investigating the video. We cannot talk about the video while the investigation is ongoing,’ the attraction said in a statement.
Dr Elsayed Mohammad, Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told Gulf News: ‘It is well known that the body of dolphins is very sensitive.
‘The dolphin’s body is not adaptable to any pressure outside water. Pressing the abdomen of the dolphin to the floor can easily harm its internal organs.
‘If you punch the abdomen of a person, you can imagine how painful it is.
‘Regardless of whether it’s a few seconds or not, it’s wrong. It is animal cruelty.’
The Dubai Dolphinarium is a popular tourist attraction which offers people the chance to watch dolphins and seals perform circus-style tricks in daily shows.
The 45-minute performances include the animals dancing, singing, juggling, playing ball, and jumping through hoops.
Guests can also pay extra for a ‘swim with dolphins’ experience, which involves being hauled along while clinging to the animal’s belly fins or dorsal fin.
Customers are also told they will get to hug, kiss and dance with the animals.
Animal rights groups have been calling for an end to all captive animal shows, describing them as cruel and abusive.
Last month Virgin Holidays announced it would stop offering package holidays to five resorts that include captive whale and dolphin experiences.
Meanwhile Seaworld announced in 2016 that it was phasing out theatrical orca shows and putting an end to its captive breeding programme after public backlash.