Thursday, 10 October 2013

'The Perfect Pair: The Enchanted Mirror' or David Holroyd's selective memory

The sad and shameful truth is it was Holroyd himself used 'shake ups'. 'Shake-ups': a training method that no reputable marine animal trainer would have used then or now.

David Holroyd worked as a dolphin trainer from two years from early 1972 for ETAM (the leisure division of Truste House Forte) at Rhyl and Knowsley Dolphinariums.   Truste House Forte at this time also own Belle Vue Zoo and later a further dolphinarium at Woburn Safari Park.

In 2012, he published a book with his sister Tracy called:  'The Perfect Pair: The Enchanted Mirror'.  The book is part of a trilogy with the second volume due for publication in February 2014.  The book(s) are described as "faction...because of legal ramifications", they recount Holroyd's limited time as a dolphin presenter and trainer.  

How do I know about this man and his time as a dolphin trainer?  Simply because I was a contemporary of Holroyd and worked with some of his surviving dolphins (Duchess and Scouse) at Knowsley Dolphinarium. 

Holroyd's training methods were infamous and well known to colleagues.  Further, I also was able to confirm this in reading his animal training logs for all animals he oversaw during his employment at both Rhyl and Knowsley dolphinariums.

To this end, I find it no surprised that Holroyd hides behind the persona of David Capello; more so when talking about the appalling 'training method' he refers to in the book as a 'shake session' or as he refers to them in training logs as 'shake-ups'.

Shake up involved locking animals in holding pens and beating metal polls on the pool floor and sides and shouting at the animals to cause them fear and distress.  

Holroyd claims in the book (Chapter 37, pages 94-95) this was taught to him by 'head trainer' Gerry Mansell (aka Garry Marshal).  This may be the case - although having worked with Marshall and his contemporaries, I was not familiar with this technique and only became aware of it being used exclusively by David Holroyd; this via word of mouth from other trainers and later (as stated above) by reading the animal care and training log books written by Holroyd and archived  at Knowsley Safari Park Dolphinarium. 

In fact, a colleague of mine confirmed he had seen
Holroyd use this method.  To this end, my colleague refused to have anything to do with such techniques, as would any professional trainer now or indeed in the past.  

The sad and shameful truth is it was Holroyd himself who systematically used 'shake-ups'.

Perhaps Holroyd thinks it is safe for him to write a book with such a selective memory some forty-years later.  Therefore, it is a good job some of us who knew him and his dolphin training methods during the early 1970s are still working in zoo animal welfare and are around to put the record straight.


The keeping of dolphins in the UK is still permitted but has been regulated since the inception of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and further welfare guidelines derived from of the Review of Dolphinaria in 1988.  The facilities cited in this blog would now be considered inappropriate and illegal. Rhyl Dolphinarium shut in 1974, Truste House Forte ceased operating dolphinaria in 1983.

The Perfect Pair. Background Notes

North Liston is South Elmasll, Yorkshire
Hendle Safari Park is Knowsley Safari Park, Liverpool
West Coast Dolphinarium  is Rhyl Dolphinarium, North Wales
Welby Park is Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire

City Zoo refers to the now-closed Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester

David Capelle is David Holroyd.

The vet mentioned in the book as Phillip Hayes is the late David Taylor (founder of the International Zoo Veterinary Group); 

Tommy Blackhouse was, in fact, the late TV wildlife personally Terry Nutkins.  

The head trainer Gerry Mansell was Gary Marshal - a former travelling salesman who stumbled into dolphin training while staying the Queens Hotel in Margate which had performing dolphins. 

Gary Marshal preparing fish for the dolphins at the Queens Hotel Dolphinarium, Margate. February 1971.

The names of the dolphins, penguins and the sea lion in the book are authentic.  I worked with 'Duchess' and 'Scouse' at Knowsley and 'Bobby' the sea lion at Woburn.  

The dolphins 'Bonnie' and 'Clyde' along with the penguins 'Smelly' and 'Worst' came from the short-lived London Dolphinarium as did Terry Nutkins.

The penguins 'Smelly' and 'Worst' at the London Dolphinarium
'Bonnie' and 'Clyde' later spent many years performing at Woburn Safari Park.   


DOLPHIN TRAINING: Do dolphins have to be abused to make them perform? A review of the history and an explanation of the techniques used in the science of animal training. 

Marine Animal Welfare