Ukrainian dolphin refugees delight Romanian kids
BUCHAREST — At the dolphinarium in the Black Sea port city of Constanta, Romanian and Ukrainian trainers are letting dolphins guide them despite language barriers.
In 2022, the dolphinarium took in four dolphins and three sea lions alongside their trainers and doctors fleeing the shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
“Now we have more colleagues … Ukrainian colleagues and Ukrainian dolphin colleagues,” Romanian trainer Mona Mandrescu said at the edge of the pool after a mid-morning performance for hundreds of delighted school children.
“We get along together very well, we speak the same ‘language’. It’s the best thing that could happen to our dolphins.”
Romania is one of fourteen European Union states that have dolphinariums and captive sea animals.
The Constanta Dolphinarium, part of a wider natural science museum and research complex, has been home to female dolphins Ni Ni and Chen Chen since 2010.
In Kharkiv, the local dolphinarium sought to move its dolphins and sea lions as soon as the shelling started last February.
The dolphins – Kiki, Maya, Marusia, and Veterok – and sea lions – Alex, Mary and Zosya – were immediately moved to Odessa, where they waited for two months for Romanian and Ukrainian officials to complete the carousel of paperwork needed to bring them into the EU.
The animals arrived in Constanta in early May and were quarantined for a month before being introduced to the two resident dolphins.
“It was a new experience for us and our animals because we are different, they have two very old and very beautiful girls, we have very young animals, at first it was a disconnect,” Ukrainian team leader Elena Komogorova said.
“But right now … we’re very good friends – same with our team.”
The animals started performing together in late June, swimming with trainers, jumping through hoops and balancing balls. The sea lions mingle with the audience.
“We want them to stay with us for as long as possible,” the dolphinarium’s manager Iulian Calin said. “They are hard working people and dolphins and we want them to be with us because we make a beautiful family.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.