Aquariums in Kazakhstan: Law and Policy

May 14, 2021Lu Shegay


Aquariums, dolphinariums, seaquariums, and oceanariums have always attracted visitors, mostly because people are interested in seeing wild animals they have never seen. Others visit aquariums for the same reason they visit zoos and circuses - to show wild terrestrial animals to children. Most people think that animals that are used in entertainment and the places where they are kept are educational, where children may learn more about animals. Kazakhstan is not an exception, and aquariums, circuses, and zoos are common in the country.

In Kazakhstan, the most common animals that are kept in dolphinariums are dolphins and sea lions. Moreover, some dolphinariums offer various services within the facility, such as marriage proposals involving dolphin shows, photos with dolphins in the pool, dolphin therapies for pregnant women, families, etc. Another dolphinarium in the capital of Kazakhstan is located inside the mall, which includes dolphin shows, interactions with animals, etc.


Animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling emotions. The European Union, for example, in its Treaty of Lisbon, recognizes the animals’ sentience. Fish, crabs, shrimp have been proven to feel pain. Dolphins are one of the smartest animals and they are capable of complex problem solving and social interactions. Octopuses have a section of their brain devoted to learning. Octopuses’ brilliant problem-solving abilities have been documented time and time again. Like humans, orcas develop complicated social networks based on family ties. They also pass knowledge down from older generations to younger ones. Tool use has been recognized in a number of animals, including primates, birds, and cetaceans. Recent research indicated that not only sea otters use tools, but they may also have evolved the ability to do so long before other species.

Read more: Aquatic Animals, Cognitive Ethology, and Ethics: Questions about Sentience and Other Troubling Issues that Lurk in Turbid Water

"Sevastopol dolphinarium" by Sergey Galyonkin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Public attitude/acceptance

In Kazakhstan, the demand for animals used in entertainment is high enough. The issue is the lack of knowledge, like in many other countries, where the public is not aware of why aquariums and captivity are detrimental to aquatic animals, including extremely intelligent marine mammals that are forced to perform activities. However, not only this is a big problem for aquatic animals that are kept in captivity in Kazakhstan, the conditions where these animals are kept are unacceptable. Some animal rights activists in Kazakhstan are fighting to close aquariums in the country and demanding regulations from the government. They claim that dolphins are highly social animals and create strong bonds with each other, as well as some countries’ recognition of their sentience.

In 2020, the Minister of Environment, Geology, and Natural Resources stated that the animal protection law will soon be considered by the Parliament. He said that the penalties for cruelty against animals might also increase, both under the Administrative Code and the Criminal Code. Moreover, he affirmed that there will be regulations about the ban of dolphinariums in the upcoming animal welfare act.

"Sea Lion" by Alejandro Hernandez. is licensed under CC BY 2.0


In Kazakhstan, there is no separate law on the protection or welfare of animals. There is only one article in the Criminal Code on animal cruelty, but which requires the presence of minors or sadistic methods.

As for the wild animals, the Law on Protection, Reproduction, and Use of Fauna provides general requirements on the protection of the fauna. (Art. 12) With that being said, the protection of the fauna is exercised by establishing rules and regulations; establishing limitations and restrictions on the use of the fauna; protecting valuable, rare, and endangered species of animals, etc. (Art. 13)

Because Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, it does not catch aquatic animals for entertainment purposes directly but imports from other countries.

Article 244 of the Environmental Code provides the creation and supply of the zoological collections, which includes aquariums, is exercised by natural persons and legal entities based on the permit issued by the state authorized body of the protection, reproduction, and use of fauna.

In accordance with the Decree of the Ministry of agriculture on the approval of rules for the creation and state registration of zoological collections, zoological collections include stuffed animals, animal parts, zoos, aquariums, and others, which have scientific, cultural, educational, and aesthetic value.

Another Decree of the Ministry of Agriculture # 652 provides that the use of animals, except rare and endangered species, for scientific, cultural, educational, and aesthetic purposes for general use is exercised without taking animals from their habitats and does not require any permits. Paragraph 3 states that the use of animals, except rare and endangered species, for scientific, cultural, educational, and aesthetic purposes for special use is exercised with taking animals from their habitats and requires the permit issued by the state authorized body of the protection, reproduction, and use of fauna. Special use is exercised through catching, hunting, and taking of animals.

There are also the requirements in paragraph 5 for using animals, except rare and endangered species, for scientific, educational, cultural, and aesthetic purposes, which should comply with the requirements of the KZ legislation; not allowing the worsening of the animal’s habitat; complying with the rules of specially protected natural territories and internal regulations of hunting and fish farms; and using fauna in a way that is safe for public health and the environment and that is not violating the integrity of natural communities and is not allowing animal cruelty.

The decree of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Minister of agriculture on the approval of rules on keeping and raising animals in captivity and/or semi-captivity applies to animals kept in aquariums since the decree includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mollusks, and insects in the definition of an animal. This decree applies to natural persons and legal entities that keep and raise animals in captivity or semi-captivity in the country. The decree also provides that animals are supplied with fresh water, food in accordance with the animal’s needs, and care to avoid stress and injury.

Penalties for the violation of any of these provisions are covered only by the Administrative Code.


Currently, a lot of countries recognize that dolphins, orcas, and cetaceans do not belong in tanks. For example, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, and Croatia have banned the practice of keeping cetaceans in captivity. In 2013, India’s Ministry of Environment & Forests banned the practice of keeping dolphins captive for public entertainment. Other countries, such as Brazil, Luxembourg, Nicaragua, and Norway, have highly restrictive standards that make it almost impossible to keep cetaceans in captivity. The last dolphinarium in the UK closed more than 20 years ago.

The animal welfare act that will soon be enacted in Kazakhstan is obviously a good starting point for the country, where animal law is non-existent on a legal level. However, enforcement is another significant factor because despite Kazakhstan already having the cruelty against animals provision, this is not enforced and cases are not even considered by the police. Aquariums are not educational facilities and cannot be supplied with good or acceptable conditions because animals are not kept in the natural environment. The best solution is to completely ban aquariums and dolphinariums in the country and spread the word about the detrimental effect of captivity on aquatic animals.

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