A popular dolphin show that is being held at Souq Waqif as part of the ongoing 2015 Spring Festival has sparked anger among some Qatar residents who have criticized the event in the name of animal cruelty.
Calls to close the show grew louder this week after one of the dolphins got sick from eating construction waste.
On Wednesday, the Qatar Veterinary Center put a call out on Facebook for a volunteer “who is not squeamish with a freakishly long arm” to help remove a yellow plastic object lodged in Meri the dolphin’s stomach.
This morning the center announced that it would use custom-made tools to treat the dolphin today, and asked everyone to keep their “fins and flippers crossed.”
As well wishes poured in for Meri, anger at the dolphin’s plight was also clear. On the center’s Facebook page, commenter Corinne Sharp said:
“They shouldn’t even be here in the first place. Poor thing. The yellow thing she (swallowed) is probably from a toy that some child watching the show chucked in the water. So sad she is having to go through all that. You want to see dolphins go on holiday to a country that has dolphins swimming freely in the sea and hire a boat!!”
And commenting on a Doha News Facebook post about weekend events, some residents compared the dolphin show to other local issues like the mistreatment of animals in the souq, saying:
“I can’t believe Qatar has brought performing animals here, a nation awash with the abandoned and abused animals, many from the same Souk. How about parading the occupants of QAWS, PAWS, and all the other rescue Centres through Souk Wakif- certainly more educational than captured sentients jumping through hoops.”
In response to the criticism, a show manager said that every effort has been made to ensure that the animals, which also include a walrus and a seal, are well cared for.
Speaking to Doha News, Natalia Naumochkina, who works for the events firm organizing the show, Lana Group International, said:
“We have a technical rider that we have to adhere to, which includes dimensions for the pool, temperature of the water, and the type of sea water that needs to be there for the animals. All of this has been sent from the troupe itself, and we have built this venue from November to accommodate all their requirements.”
Addressing questions about the dolphin who became ill, Svetlana Levitskaya, Lana Group chairperson, told Doha News:
“One of our dolphins has taken sick, probably from ingesting a remnant of the construction work that has been going on since November. We have taken every measure to ensure that the animal receives the best care, and have spared no expense in treating it.”
She added that the 3m-deep pool, which was deemed too shallow by some residents, was adequate for the dolphins, who, along with other performing animals also swim in separate pools behind the stage.
The one-and-half-hour-long dolphin show is held at a specially constructed venue behind the Al Rayyan Channel at the periphery of the souq.
The troupe performs twice a day at 3:30 and 6:30 pm, and tickets to the show cost QR50 and QR100. Residents who attend can watch the troupe’s dolphins, aqua ballerinas, seal and walrus perform.
Earlier this week, children who attended the show appeared enthralled with the high-jumping, pirouetting, waltzing and mambo and tango-dancing dolphins.
Kids are also offered the opportunity to interact with the dolphins and be taken for a ride in a boat by the sea mammals.
Weighing 200kgs each, the animals were flown from Russia in a specially chartered plane in large baths made for their transportation.
The show also features a massive 650kg walrus named Mr. Poof who sings, plays the trumpet, exercises and consumes some 50kg of fish per day, as well as a group of five aqua ballet performers.
Though many residents were upset about the animal entertainment, those who attended the performances seemed pleased, and people could be seen photographing and video-taping the various acts.
Despite being scaled back following the passing of Saudi’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the festival has still drawn in large crowds, as residents take advantage of both the great weather and events on offer.
The festival runs from Jan. 23 to Feb. 6, but due to the king’s demise all music-related activities and a Rayyan FM-sponsored concert have been canceled.
Spread out over the entire souq, the festival is divided into numerous zones dedicated to specific activities.
Opposite Fanar, the Al-Ahmad Square has been converted into a massive games zone, complete with food and game stalls, and amusement park rides. Rides cost QR10 each, and tickets can be bought from booths outside the arena.
There are also camel and pony rides available, and various stilt and costumed performers can be seen walking through the crowd at the game zone.
A few meters into the souq at the Al Rayyan Theatre housed in the Al Mirqab Hotel is a production featuring the members of Kharameesh, a famous Arab musical band for children, held daily at 4 and 7pm. Tickets to the show cost QR100, QR150, QR200 and QR300.
Shaun the Sheep performances concluded yesterday.
Have you visited the festival? Thoughts?