“Maybe the Virgin Islands hasn’t wrapped their head around how big of a deal this is,” Lee Kellar, the General Curator at Coral World in St. Thomas said.
Bringing dolphins up close. That is the dream of Kellar and the team at Coral World in St. Thomas.
“We’ve been extremely frustrated at people who call us a dolphinarium which just does not match what it is we’re doing. This is far more than that,” Keller added.
For the past decade, Kellar has been working on creating a space for dolphins to live, play, and grow. While, helping humans learn too.
Kellar said their main mission with the endeavour is to gain important insight into the lives of dolphins in hopes of preserving the species and sharing that insight with those that visit.
“They understand that the ocean is more than just a flat body of water that the ocean is home for animals that hopefully after spending time with them that they actually care about so that is how we get our educational message across to folks when they visit,” Keller added.
Now that project, is nearing completion. Its’ opening is causing animal activists to speak out.
“We are people opposed to having dolphins kept in captivity for entertainment purposes,” Fiona Stuart the founder of VI Dolphin Voices said.
She started VI Dolphin Voices in 2011 after word about the new dolphin habitat at Coral World came out. She wanted to make sure people against the dolphin project had a voice.
“We have a new conscience that really worldwide that animals aren’t ours to be used for entertainment and confined.”
Using dolphins for tourism purposes, keeping them in captivity and placing them here in Water Bay are all concerned for Stuartand her group. She said environmental testing shows unsafe levels of bacteria.
“I wouldn’t get in this water, would you? Beyond that if we wouldn’t get in it why should we put dolphins in there,”Stuart added.
While Coral World defends the environment is safe for the dolphins, the opposition remains, with one message.
“Please don’t bring the dolphins in, there are other ways. We are not trying to shut Coral World down, but we believe in the 21stcentury there are other options.”
Work towards the opening of the habitat is still going ahead as planned.
An update is expected in the coming days.