History of Dolphinariums

A history of dolphins and whales in UK dolphinariums

By Humanadmin

The UK housed a large collection of dolphinariums from the early 1960s to 1991 when the last one (located at Windsor Safari Park) closed its gates. The reasons that these closed are varied but the main problem was that a scientific report ordered by the government and written by Klinowski et al. recommended mnimum sizes for main pools that was endorsed and put into place by the government. As a result, all dolphinariums in the UK fell foul of these minimum guidelines. All dolphinariums were given 10 years to bring the pools up to the minimum guidelines but all failed to do so.

By 1991 there were only three facilities still in operation. The largest and arguably best of these was Windsor whose owner went into administration. Ironically the Safari Park and dolphinarium were the only part of the organisation that was making a profit at the time.

The reasons are again varied: lack of money was the main one. It would have cost Windsor over £500,000 to invest in new pool facilities, which was a vast amount of money at that time. The second major reason was the animal rights movement who at that time were very vocal (and in some cases rightly justified) in regards to the keeping of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in captivity, specifically in regards to the sizes of certain pools and premature deaths in captivity.

Another aspect that was incredibly cynical and to me personally plain wrong were the large numbers of touring and seasonal dolphinaria that sprang up from time to time in various seaside towns. The water also becomes muddy when ownership of these dolphinaria is looked into. Quite often the dolphins were owned by a company that had static dolphinaria and sent animals to other places (either in plastic/steel pools built at the location or in swimming pools converted for their use) that were run by a third party. On other occassions the animals and pools were owned and operated by the same people.

As you will note a number of dolphinariums were established in zoos and safari parks but were run as a separate entity by the owners of the dolphins. This is where I think the zoo community dropped the ball. In my view they should have owned the animals and operated the dolphinariums themselves. They would then have been able to move with the times (as they have done many times before and since) and dolphinariums would still be in existence in the UK today.

(Excerpts from Zoo Archives – https://zooarchives.weebly.com/uk-dolphinariums.html#)

Animal Training School and Dolphinarium, South Elmsal (1972-1974)

Animal Training School and Dolphinarium, South Elmsall, near Wakefield. Owned by Mr John Nolan and his wife under the compamy name of Jervale Ltd. Thje training school was a former swimming baths that opened in 1932 and had been converted. Although not actually open to the public they were occassionally admitted.

Initially used to house 8 dolphins that were caught and transported from the USA in 1973. In 1974 when the facility closed the animals were relocated to Ocean Park, Seaburn and then 4 of them were sent on to Flamingo Park in 1975 (both of these dolphinariums were run by Jervale).

The extent of the facility as a whole is unknown but some documents suggest that more than 34 dolphins were shipped to the school, however other documents state that nowhere near that number were actually sent to the school.When the school closed there were only 6 animals.

Leeds – Flamingo land- Associated Pleasure Parks (Touring) (off and on from 1966 to roughly 1970)

Based at Flamingo Park. In about 1966 three dolphins were exhibited in old tram sheds (Queens Hall) in Leeds. Later on they moved to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

The Leeds pool was a circular plastic tank of roughly 3.66m in diameter (about 12′) and 1.52m deep (about 5′). Records differ but either one or two dolphins were exhibited, trained by a Mr S. Gallagher and assisted by Mr P. Vodden. One of the dolphins was definitely male and died somewhere within this time.

1968 saw a dolphin called Simba (female) do a tour in the same area. This time the tank held 10,000 gallons of water.

Associated Pleasure Parks held at leasdt one more tour in 1970 with a dolphin called Mickey. Evidence relates that the tour was in Bournemouth in July 1970 and in Weymouth in September 1970. I have been unable to obtain any information of where they exhibited in 1969 or if they continued after 1970.

Battersea Park Dolphinarium (1st April 1971-1973)Owned and operated by Marine Mammals International which was run by a Mr Raber.

The dolphinariums address was: Battersea Dolphinarium, The Fun Fair, Battersea Park, London SW11. It must be made strictly clear that this enterprise had nothing to do with Battersea Park Zoo which was (and is) a completely separate entity.

The pool was a circular steel tank 9.72m in diameter (roughly 30′) and 3.66m deep (roughly 12′). The pool had a tiled base for ease of cleaning and was located within a converted building in the middle of the funfair. As such it had to be artificially lit with no sunlight entering the building.

There were at least two (and quite probably yhree) resident dolphins although others may have been acclimatised her by Marine Mammals International before being sent to dolphinariums in Europe.

A severe fire ripped through the building in 1973 and althought the pool and the dolphins survived the building was unable to be repaired. As such the dolphins were relocated to Porthcawl.

Battersea, Touring(December 1972)

Oddly in light of the fact that dolphinarium was already in existence in Battersea Park, a touring dolphin show that was housed in a large tent  or inflatable dome visited Battersea in December 1972.

Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester 

In December 1972 Glasser (from Switzerland) brought a temporary dolphin show to the zoo which held two dolphins in a portable pool. This wasn’t all that unusual as Belle Vue often had a circus with animal acts over the winter period right up until its closure.

Blackpool Dolphinarium (1969)On the Golden Mile and appears to have been between Central and North Pier and near to the tower.

Three bottlenose dolphins were brought from South Africa for a summer show in 1969, for one season. One animal died and the other two were exported to Malta. These animals visited other dolphinaria and were seen again in South Africa in the 1970’s. One may have been the animal Maria (Speedy) which later visited Clacton and Sandown.

Their is some conflict as to who the dolphins belonged to. Some suggest Marine Mammals International, while others suggest a Mr Fletcher from South Africa. The dolphins were called Sinbad and Prontoand the other could have been Maria (AKA Speedy) who later appeared at Clacton and Sandown, Isle of Wight.One of the dolphins died while at Blackpool and the other two went on to appear at other dolphinaria in the UK and went back to South Africa (where they were seen at dolphin shows) in the 1970’s.

Blair Drummond Safari Park (Seasonally (Summer only) Easter 1971 – October 1984).

The dolphinarium was only seasonal and ran in the summer between 1971 and 1984. The dolphins were owned at various times by Mr J Chipperfield, Trident Television (yes, really. the ITV station based in Scarborough), Trust Houses Forte (also known as Entam( and Mr Terry Nutkins (a disciple of Gavin Maxwell who would later find fame on the BBC children’s programme “The Really Wild Show”.) The show was operated by Scarborough Marineland and Zoo.

The dolphinarium was housed in what is known as a “free span” building. This basically means that the walls and ceiling support the structure and as such there is nothing between the walls obstructing the view (walls etc). The building was located near the restaurant and children’s zoo. It had a plastic lined sunken pool that measured 15.24m (roughly 50′) by 6.10m (roughly 18′) and 3.05m deep (roughly 10′) deep.

Trident Television (Scarborough) supplied the dolphins from about 1974 to 1978. Trust Houses Forte then supplied the dolphins from 1978-83and finally Terry Nutkins supplied the dolphins in 1984. There is no information about Mr Chipperfield’s animals.

Some of the dolphins went uder the names ‘Flipper’ and ‘Scottie’ but were also known as Chemo and Jenkie. Mr Braithwaite, the trainer at the time, gave the life histories of Flipper (Chemo) and Scottie (Jenkie). The trainer was a Mr Braithwaite. When not on show they overwintered in Malta and Gibraltar (although at the end this was changed to Scarborough, presumably because of the expense.)

There is a suggestion that they were the same Flipper (male) and Jenkie (female) who performed at a dolphinarium in the winter season of 1976/1977.

The last two dolphins exhibited here were trained by a Ms Moore and were called Sooty and Clyde. When the dolphinarium closed in 1984 they to Knowsley along with Ms Moore.

The dolphinarium is still there but is now a sealion show.

Brighton Aquarium and Dolphinarium (1968 -1992)

Housed at: Brighton Aquarium and Dolphinarium, Marine Parade/Madiera Drive, Brighton BN2 1TB, Sussex, and owned by Aquarium Entertainments Ltd.

The aquarium was built in 1862 and was officially opened by HRH Prince Arthur in 1872. The aquarium was redesigned in 1927 and in 1935 all records relating to the aquarium to that point were lost in “the Great Storm”.

Prior to the dolphinarium as we know it there had been a few previous attempts at keeping cetaceans at the aquarium:  prior to 1876 they hadattempted to keep net entangled harbour porpoises and certainly by 1914 there had been a birth to one of these animals. In fact this appears to be the first successful cetacean birth in captivity.

There are also references to keeping a white whale with some success after 1878 (presumably a beluga).

Run by Brighton Corporation until 1955 it was leased from them by Aquarium Entertainments Ltd under the directorship of Mr F C Glover and Mr E E Sander. In 1968 a new pool was built to house two dolphins who were shipped from Miami. This pool is now used by sealions.

In 1969 a larger pool was constructed (which is the current sealion pool). Following a competition the dophins were renamed Prinny and Belle and were moved to the new pool in April 1969.

Four more dolphins were due to move into the pool at the same time but were delayed due to an airline strike and moved in later. This made the total number of dolphins to 6, however only four performed in shows due to the fact that one of the females (Missus) had a calf called Baby (later renamed as Missie). These last two were rescued stranded dolphins and were kept apart from the others in the smaller original pool.

In 1977 in conjunction with Scarborough the decision was made to import six new dolphins from Mexico. Only five could be bought at that time and they were shipped to the UK. However they became chilled on the way over and subsequently became ill. Four of them later died. The remaining animal made a full recovery and was sent to Scarborough.

In 1979, in association with Mr R Bloom, a group of six dolphins were purchased from Ocean Park , Hong Kong after originally being capture in Taiwan.They had already had a period of time to acclimatise to captivity. They were meant to go to Clacton but the pier was damaged in a storm. They were temporarily housed in a converted swimming pool in Worthing. Two of these animals were sent to Brighton (Connie and Bertie) and the rest were exported, presumably to Europe.

Silver (a male) arrived from Ocean Park, Hong Kong in 1978; Poppy arrived in 1972 and gave birth to a baby in 1981, which sadly only survived for three weeks; Soukie is the baby of Silver and Missieand was born in September 1985.

There were two pools. The main pool was an elongated octagon measuring 22m (roughly 70′) by 9.2m (about 28′) and 3m deep (about 9 1/2′) witha  surface area of 175m2. There was also a trapezium shaped holding pool with a surface area of 55m2 and 3m deep. The holding pool was filtered separately to the main pool but could not be emptied without emptying the main pool. Total surface area of the combined pools was about 230m2. The pool was indoor and used natural seawater (i.e. pumped in from the sea). The main  pool had 20 1m x 1m viewing windows and was lined with glass-fibre and painted with sea plants.

The pool was the only one in the UK to have “brushes” on the bottom as enrichment for the animals. The holding pool whern not in use was left open for the animals to use as they wished.

Visitor numbers were as follows: 305,500 in 1983; 278,200 in 1984 and 298,750 in 1985.Due to extensive repair work in 1982-83 the dolphins were moved to a converted swimming pool in Brighton. Later on the entrance to the holding pool was altered only this time without removing the animals.

At one point it was planned that there would be an expansion of the complex to include a breeding and rearing pool as well as quarantine and isolation pools. It was suggested that this would double the water surface area.

Clacton Pier Dolphinarium

Opened: 1971. Closed: summer 1985 (Possibly also closed between 1979 and 1981).Outdoor, former swimming pool, 32.20 x 19.30 m; depth at centre 3.20 m sloping to 2.40 m at either side, with a holding pool 10.67 m2 included. Guided tours and lectures are mentioned by Williamson and Schoenberg (1976) and there was a natural history exhibit. This was a training establishment, with a number of animals passing through. The main residents were the bottlenose dolphins, Bubbles and Squeak, and most recently the three young killer whales. The last animal, Nemo, was moved to Windsor in the summer of 1985. Mr Bloom also obtained and transported animals for other owners. There was a strandings rescue service. Donaldson (1976) carried out studies on the use of the tongue and the sense of taste, with Bubbles and Squeak. A dolphin, Echo, was loaned to F. Hussain of King’s College, University of London in 1972. The animal was to have been taken to King’s for research on intelligence and communication, but the transfer was not completed.

Cleethorpes Zoo and Marineland

The dolphin pool was outdoor, polygonal, fibre-glass lined, about 12.19 m across and 2.44 m deep. There is no information on any additional accommodation for the other species kept. Animals wintered at Flamingo, and may also have participated in winter shows elsewhere. There was much movement between the establishments in the group and it is very difficult to establish which were ‘Cleethorpes’ animals – if there were such. It is possible that available animals performed as required. Cleethorpes may also have been used for holding animals outside the summer season. Taylor (1976) mentions an artificial insemination attempt between the killer whales Calypso of Cleethorpes and Cuddles of Flamingo. A white whale was kept here briefly, and possible also a pilot whale.

Dudley Zoo

Dudley Zoo, Castle Hill, Dudley, Warwickshire.The outdoor whale and dolphin pools were adapted from sea-lion pools in the castle moat. The roughly pear-shaped whale pool was about 15.24 x 6.1-10.67 x 3.66 m deep and the adjoining dolphin pool larger, but shallower, only one part being 3.05 m deep. The dolphins wintered at Flamingo; the killer whale may have remained. Dolphins may have been present in 1975. The female bottlenose dolphin, Winkie, from Scarborough was to have performed at the opening, but she died earlier at Scarborough.Flamingo Park Zoo (AKA Flamingoland)


The zoological gardens at Kirby Misperton were founded by Mr Pentland Hick about 1959. Mr D. Robinson and others were in association. Until the present owners took over in 1978 the establishment was known as Flamingo Park. (We refer to the establishment as ‘Flamingo’, for simplicity.)

Flamingo was the first establishment in the UK to exhibit bottlenose dolphins. (The pair brought to the UK in 1962, from Italy, were intended for filming – see Plymouth, Former Dolphinaria section.) The first dolphins (Flipper and her one year old female calf, Cookie) arrived on 20.6.63, flown in from Florida, accompanied by Dr John C. Lilly. The animals are said to have cost £ 2,500 and their pool (with filtration, temperature control and artificial sea water) £ 2,000 (Adams, 1972). Two more dolphins arrived in 1964. Mr Hick formed Associated Pleasure Parks, which opened a second zoo at Cleethorpes, with a dolphin exhibit. These dolphins probably first came to Flamingo for training, establishing a pattern for the future. Until about 1974, animals for UK and European dolphinaria arrived at Flamingo for training before moving to other establishments. Some animals returned to Flamingo for the winter, and some of these took part in winter tours. Unfortunately, all records stored at Flamingo were taken by the Receiver when the penultimate owners, Scotia Pleasure Parks Ltd, ceased business.

Mr Hick was very adventurous, not only in transport methods, but also in his search for new species to exhibit. The first dolphins travelled by air, but one of the consignments in 1966 travelled by sea in open tanks on the deck of a boat. Mr Hick sent his people far and wide. Mr Rendell (see Windsor) went to Canada to obtain white whales. A very young animal ‘Titchl was flown in from Vancouver in 1964. It was 6 feet long, weighed 135 lbs and had been found stranded by fishermen. The animal was only about seven months old and had to be bottle fed. It did not survive for long. In 1965, four white whales were sent by sea from Quebec, travelling in tanks on the deck of the liner Arcadia. Two were lost overboard in a storm when the tank failed, one died and the other was injured. The survivor and the dead animal were landed. The survivor was taken to Cleethorpes, but died of its injuries about September 1965.

This was not the first attempt to keep white whales in the UK. In 1877 a female, taken in May by seine-net in Labrador, was sent by ship to Montreal and by rail to New York, where she was kept in an aquarium at Coney Island. The animal was sent by sea to the UK, travelling in a box of wet seaweed and having water poured over her at frequent intervals day and night. The 2.74 m animal swam about the 12.19 x 6.10 x 1.83 m deep 45,000 gallon fresh water tank at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster and ate live eels soon after arrival in the September, but died of pneumonia on the fourth day. Mr Farini, the entrepreneur, then sent Mr Zach. Coup, the catcher who had taken and accompanied the white whale, to Lerwick in the Shetland islands in search of a pilot whale as a replacement. This expedition was frustrated by bad weather. However, on 18.5.1878 four more white whales left the USA by ship and arrived on 27.5.1878. One animal had died during a storm, but the other three were sent to Pomona Gardens, Manchester, to Blackpool and to the Royal Aquarium, Westminster. These animals had been caught in the same place as the first, by Mr Coup. No information has been found on the further history of these animals, although the Westminster specimen is described as ‘soon making itself at home in its new quarters’ (Lee, 1878).

Mr D. C. Taylor (at that time veterinarian-curator) was sent to Greenland in search of narwhal and even on an unlikely expedition to Pakistan to follow up an offer of pygmy sperm whales (the ordinary sperm whales were considered to be too large, even by Mr Hick). Taylor (1976) describes the Pakistan affair -a new-born pygmy sperm whale was seen eventually, in a pool at Karachi, but it had been killed by a ‘banger’ firework in the anus. There was no sign of the mother, or of any other members of the species. A pair of Adriatic common dolphins were imported from Riccione, Italy, in 1964/5, but they were very stressed by the journey and only lasted a few days.

A number of attempts to obtain pilot whales were made. Staff travelled to a live stranding in Scotland (not recorded in the British Museum (Natural History) records) but were unable to obtain animals because of opposition from local landlords. They may also have been involved in the attempt by Mr John Sadler, on behalf of Billy Smart, to catch pilot whales which strayed into the Thames in 1965 – see Windsor. Mr R. Bloom and Mr Rendell did bring a baby pilot whale back from the Faroes hunt in 1966. The animal was very young and died after a few days. Either Cleethorpes or Flamingo had another pilot whale, source unknown, in October 1964.

In 1966 a new pool, designed by Mr R. Bloom, was opened. It was extended to form the ‘8’ shape it has today in 1968, for the reception of Cuddles, an 11 112 ft young male killer whale. The animal, which was thought at the time to be female, arrived from Seattle by air, accompanied by Mr D. C. Taylor. (Cuddles was moved to Dudley in 1971 and died there in 1974, just before he was due to move to his new home in Nice.) Taylor (1976) describes an unsuccessful artificial insemination attempt between Cuddles and the older female Calypso of Cleethorpes.

Besides the failure to obtain a wide range of cetacean species, Flamingo had some problems with the bottlenose dolphins. At least five pregnant animals arrived from the USA in September 1965. None of the young survived and one of the females was also lost. There was a stillbirth in 1966 (or possibly at Cleethorpes), and another birth in 1967. These would most likely all have been wild conceptions. (Movement of pregnant animals is today not approved by IATA and CITES regulations, except in emergency where the risks of not moving the animal outweigh the risk of travel – see Standards section.) In 1969 there was great excitement over the birth of a captive conceived calf to Moby and Dolly. According to press cuttings the calf lived for two weeks. This seems to be the first captive conceived birth in the UK.

However, financial problems arose and Mr Hick sold Flamingo to Scotia Pleasure Parks Ltd in 1969. From then until 1973, Flamingo and Cleethorpes were run together with Scarborough. Another dolphinarium was opened for the summer in about 1970, at Gwrych Castle in North Wales, but there were problems with the portable pool and Gwrych seems to have only been open for one or two seasons. In 1971 Scotia took over Dudley and moved dolphins and the killer whale, Cuddles, there. Flamingo sent two dolphins to Southsea by rail, for the 1973 summer season. This pair were then sold to Windsor, where one, Lulu, is still alive and gave birth to a surviving calf in 1984. Mr Robinson left Flamingo in December 1973. In March 1974 five dolphins were lost in 48 hours from hepatitis when structural failure allowed contaminated water into the main dolphin pool and water quality in the side pool, to which the animals had to be confined, became uncontrollable (see Welfare section). From about 1975-77 Mr Nolan supplied the Flamingo dolphins. The last three of these animals died from systemic candidiasis in 1976-77 when the water treatment system became contaminated with fungi (see Welfare section). The system was completely cleaned and partly renewed before three animals, provided by Margate, arrived for the 1978 summer season. No dolphins were exhibited between 1979 and 1984


In about 1981, as a result of requests from visitors, preparations were made to house dolphins again. Renovations included a new filtration system, food storage and preparation areas, water testing laboratory, heating system, staff facilities and repairs to the building and seating. Animals were to be obtained, trained and managed by Mr R. Bloom on a sub-contract basis.

The pool was not quite ready in December 1983, and, as Mr Bloom’s import permit was about to expire, the new animals were temporarily brought in to Knowsley. One of the three Flamingo animals died at Knowsley as did Knowsley’s elderly male animal (see Welfare section). When the Flamingo pool was ready in February 1984, the two remaining Flamingo animals and the Knowsley female were moved together to Flamingo (see Knowsley for details).

The zoo and dolphinarium are closed in winter. In the colder months, the dolphins are kept mainly in the indoor area of the pool, which can be enclosed by sliding doors. The trainers reside in a caravan, adjacent to the dolphin pool, throughout the year and the animals are never left unattended. The animals are trained to retrieve foreign objects from the pool and present them to the trainer. Trainers regularly swim with the dolphins and recreational swimming with the animals is allowed, under the supervision of the trainers and at the participants’ own risk. A class of 27 children recently swam with the animals for the television programme Jim’ll Fix It.

The dolphins are the only animals in the Park managed by a sub-contract. This arrangement was made because of the specialised knowledge required. The Park provides the facilities and Dolphin Services (Bloom UK) provide the animals. On all matters to do with the welfare of the animals, the Head Trainer has authority. This includes the number of shows per day, although the Park management may make requests.

Scarborough Marineland & Zoo (1969-1984)

Scarborough Marineland, Scarborough Zoo, North stead Road, Scarborough, Yorkshire.

The dolphin pool was 13.72 x 6.89 x 3.05 m deep, surface area 95 m2 ; open in summer but covered with a temporary timber structure in winter. The second, glass-sided tank, 12.19 x 4.88 x 2.74 m deep, surface area 60 m2 , was used at times as a dolphin holding or isolation pool and had a temporary wooden roof in winter. Three portable holding tanks of about 5,000 gallons each were noted in October 1974. The dolphins usually wintered elsewhere: Malta (1974 at least), South Africa (1975-1976), Gibraltar (1977?), Windsor (1978-1985), Christmas 1983/4 Belfast. Some animals travelled between Scarborough/Flamingo and Mr Robinson’s establishment at Hemingford, Quebec in Canada about 1970 – 1974. Natural sea water was used in the early years, but artificial salt water later for improved water quality control. The dolphin pool was cooled in summer. Scarborough was run with Flamingo from 1969-1973, but there were earlier connections as Mr Robinson was one of the Flamingo founders. At that time Flamingo also supplied Dudley and Cleethorpes. Fran 1974-1978 Scarborough supplied the Blair Drummond dolphins. The Scarborough dolphins performed under the names of ‘Flipper’ and ‘Jenkie’.

An expedition went to the Faros, possibly in the mid-1970’s, in search of pilot whales for display. A wounded animal was obtained and kept in a pool for a short time, but was too ill to travel and was returned to the local people. A party of 20 Faroese schoolchildren were subsequently brought to Scarborough to see the dolphins and other exhibits. This was intended to influence the children against the pilot whale hunt. Currently the site is undeveloped.

Skegness Dolphinarium

Skegness Dolphinarium, Tower Parade, Skegness, Lincolnshire.

A temporary outdoor exhibit with a partly sunken 9.14 m diameter 2.13 – 2.44 m deep plastic lined pool. The show was said to have had a full commentary, which could be pitched to requirements, with biological facts as well as general material (Williamson and Schomberg, 1976).

Windsor Safari Park

Windsor Safari Park Ltd, Winkfield Road, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 4AY.
Owner: Windsor Safari Park Ltd, a subsidiary of Southbrook and City Holdings Ltd.

Pools: A: rectangular display pool 26.0 x 14.0 x 3.5 m deep with four timber holding pens 2.6 x 3.5 x 1.5 m deep included. Two underwater viewing panels, under cover.
B: pear shaped back pool, partly above ground,
with seven underwater viewing panels
(not under cover) and a
bridge at one end for public viewing.
Connected to the main complex by a channel.
Maximum length 26.0 m, maximum width 12.5 m, 3.5 m deep.
C: rectangular whale holding pool, adjacent to main pool and connected to it. Screened from the public but open air. 7.6 x 7.6 x 3.0 m deep.
Approximate surface areas: A: 315 m2 (ex. holding pools); B: 218 m2 ; C: 58 m
Total: 640 m2 (inc. holding pools).
Outdoor, salt mix water.

Animals: 2 male, 3 female (one pregnant at end 1985) adult bottlenose dolphins, 2 male bottlenose dolphin calves, 2 killer whales (male and female).
The dolphins and female killer whale are owned by Windsor Safari Park Ltd; the male killer whale is owned by International Animal Exchange, and housed at Windsor at the request of the Department of the Environment.


The Windsor Safari Park was founded and developed by the Billy Smart Organisation in 1969 and was officially opened in 1970, by HRH Princess Margaret. The Park was sold to Trident Television in June 1977 and bought by Southbrook and City Holdings Ltd in December 1983, who continue to be the holding company.

In 1965, when 30 pilot whales were spotted in the Thames, Billy Smart and others (probably including Flamingo staff) organised a catching expedition. Mr John Sadler, who later became the first dolphin trainer at Windsor, spent five days and £ 1,000 trying to catch animals for display until notified by the police that whale catching in the Thames was illegal (Adams, 1972). The whale sighting is not noted in the British Museum (Natural History) records, but the story has been confirmed from several independent sources, including Mr G. Smart.

Taylor (1982) describes how he and Mr G. Smart went to Malta to rescue two baby pilot whales which had spent three days on a fishmongers slab. The animals were treated and kept in a swimming pool, with the intention of taking them back to Windsor. Smart and Taylor went to make arrangements but on return found the animals very ill from sunburn. The local people caring for the animals had been told to keep them out of the sun, but had decided that since the animals seemed to prefer sun to shade, a covering of sun tan oil would provide sufficient protection and let them out. The animals were covered in infected blisters and died shortly after.

The first four bottlenose dolphins, including Smartie who is still alive at Windsor, arrived in July 1969. Mr R. Bloom, who designed the original pool (areas A and C), assisted with the catching in Florida. Two more dolphins arrived in March 1970, including Honey who is still alive. One of the original group died in November 1970, after ingesting a plastic bag. The first killer whale, Ramu III arrived in September 1970. No other species, except bottlenose dolphins and killer whales, have been kept at Windsor, although a pilot whale, Hummer, was to have been part of the exchange when Ramu went to Sea World, California in 1976. The plan was not completed because Hummer was not well enough to travel at the time. A feasibility study was made by Mr Sadler and others, of the Faroes pilot whale fishery in 1976, but there was no possibility of obtaining animals for display from this source.


In the changes of ownership, animal records at Windsor appear to have gone astray. The list was compiled from several sources, including the personal records of Mr G. Smart. The history of Smartie and Honey is described above. Lulu is one of two females brought to Flamingo in December 1971. This pair performed at Southsea in the summer of 1972 and came to Windsor in the autumn. Angie was previously in captivity at Sea World, San Diego and arrived in 1977 with two other dolphins in exchange for Ramu. Prince came from the Texas coast in 1980. He previously performed in summer at Scarborough. Juno was born to Lulu and Smartie in 1984. Neptune was born to Honey and Smartie in 1985. Angie is currently pregnant by Smartie. Winnie, the female killer whale, was caught off Iceland in 1977. She arrived in March 1978, having spent the winter at Harderwijk, the Netherlands. Nemo, the male killer whale, was caught off Iceland in 1981 and initially kept at Clacton. He was brought to Windsor in June 1985. Recreational swimming with the dolphins is in general not allowed although exceptions may be made in special circumstances. Arrangements have been made for handicapped, disabled and other special groups to meet the dolphins.

Visitor attendance in 1983-84 was 525,000, in 1984-85 550,000 and about 700,000 are expected in 1985-86, for the whole park. The Safari Park and dolphinarium are open throughout the year. Besides the dolphin and killer whale displays, there are sea lion displays (in the dolphin pool), parrot displays, birds of prey displays and previously in summer, high diving and clown acts (in the dolphin pool).

The back pool (pool B), with its own water treatment equipment, was built in 1978. This pool can also be operated together with the rest of the complex. All three pools can be separately drained. Windsor have recently installed new chlorination equipment and are currently reconditioning the filtration equipment for the main pool. A new splash barrier is to be erected at the main pool and the back pool wall was raised 12 months ago.

Mr Rendell began his career with captive cetaceans as a trainee at Flamingo in 1965 and was Curator when he left in 1970 to take over the Coventry dolphinarium. He also worked with Mr Nolan at South Shields. Mr Rendell came to Windsor as Curator in 1974 and is responsible for the entire animal collection. Mr Lindsay, the Senior Warden in charge of the dolphinarium, came to Windsor in 1979 and has worked with the cetaceans since 1980. He spent the 1982 season at Morecambe on secondment. He has passed the first two parts of the ZSL Animal Management Course and part of the City and Guilds course. He is a member of the Association of British Wild Animal Keepers, and of the International Marine Animals Trainers Association.

Whipsnade Zoo

The Water Mammals Exhibit, The Zoological Society of London, Whipsnade Park, Dunstable, Beds. LU6 2LF.

Pools: A: roughly boomerang-shaped outdoor pool;
max. length 19.0 m, max. width 5.0 m, 3.4 m deep.
B: trapezium-shaped indoor pool;
max. length 13.0 m, max. width 5.0 m, 3.4 m deep.
C: rectangular indoor isolation pool with stranding shelf;
6.0 x 4.8 m; shelf 4.8 m x 2.0 m x 1.0 m deep, rest 2.5 m deep.
Surface areas approx. 95, 65, 20 m2 ; total 180 m2 All pools can be operated and drained separately. Partly indoor, salt mix water.

Animals: 1 male and 1 female bottlenose dolphins. Owned by the Zoological Society of London.


The Zoological Society of London (ZLS) was founded in 1826, with the intention of establishing a collection of animals in London for the advancement of zoology and animal physiology and the introduction of new and curious subjects of the animal kingdom. The zoological gardens at Regent’s Park were opened in 1828. In the 1860’s, Mr A. D. Bartlett, the Superintendent, and Mr Frank Buckland made several efforts to keep net-caught harbour porpoises at Regent’s Park. (14 arrived, 3 died before collection; none lived very long.) There was also, apparently, a whale pool constructed at Regent’s Park to receive a white whale from north America which had been promised (Blunt, 1976: Buckland, 1866). It is unlikely that any white whale arrived at this time since Lee (1878) makes no mention of it in his review.

The ZLS acquired Whipsnade Park in 1927 and it was opened to the public in 1931. It was conceived as the first ‘open’ zoo, where the animals could roam in large open-air enclosures.


The Society has always exhibited a wide range of species and in the early 1970’s it was decided that a representative of the Order Cetacea would enhance the educational value of their collection. A small unit was opened in May 1972, after extensive consultations with other establishments to determine the requirements for ‘best practice’ of the day. It was intended to be the beginning of a complex showing members of the Order (Manton, 1974), but no further development of the exhibit had been carried out by the end of 1985.

One of the first three dolphins died within a few days of arrival. Two more arrived in the autumn of 1972. In 1984 a calf was born to Nina, who had arrived in 1978, which lived for just under a month. The present male, Samson, came from the Texas coast in 1978. The female, Lady, was taken in the same area in 1980. She was previously at Windsor, performing at Scarborough in summer, and was bought by the ZLS in July 1985.

Whipsnade, uniquely for the UK, have complete records of their animals for the time they lived in the park and a complete set of keepers’ logbooks, which have provided data for several research projects (see Research section). Recreational swimming with the dolphins is not allowed and staff usually only enter the pool for maintenance reasons. The park is open throughout the year, with dolphin displays in summer. Training sessions take place in winter, without commentary, which are advertised in the park in the same way as summer show times. Visitors may enter the underwater viewing and outdoor pool areas at any time. The indoor pool area is closed for an hour at lunch time, but otherwise freely open to the public.

The indoor pool at Whipsnade has three large underwater viewing windows under cover. The filtration plant can also be seen on the other side of the viewing corridor.  Extensive repairs to the roof of the indoor pools were in progress in the autumn of 1985.

Major Players in the UK Dolphinarium Scene

Jervale Ltd

Marine Mammals International 

Owned and operated dolphin shows in Battersea, Porthcawl and for one summer Blackpool. Also supplied dolphins for Royalty Folies.

Scotia Investments 

Trust Houses Forte (Entam) 

Aquatic Mammal Enterprises 

This company was based in Key Largo, Florida, USA and was owned by Charlie and Leigh Riggs. They supplied the dolphins for the movie “Day of the Dolphins”. In 1974 the Riggs’ brought 4 dolphins to the UK (Max, Leigh, Little Charlie and Peewee) who were intially housed at Margate and then spent the summer split between Cleethorpes, Sandown and Brean Down before they all went back to the US in 1975.