Kétos, the Euro-Mediterranean Marine and Cetacean Center in the city of Taranto, is a unicum in a national context. Kétos was established by the association for scientific research Jonian Dolphin Conservation and it is one of the seven projects supported by the CON IL SUD Foundation through the 2015 edition of the Call for Proposals “Good Returns to the Community” (Il bene torna comune), which aims at giving new life to unused assets of a historic, artistic, and cultural value in Southern Italy. The center is located in the old town, inside Palazzo Amati, one of the most renowned buildings from the 18th century, and it was vigorously selected from 220 candidate properties from all regions of South Italy.
Since 2019, the rooms of this historical building host a dedicated museum area, a space offering tourist services, a space open to start-ups, to social entrepreneurs, and a library facing the sea. In addition, there is a specially designed centre in support and protection of the sea and its Cetaceans marine mammals, providing educational activities, scientific research, and environmental communication.
The project offers scientific educational and museum services, innovatively applied through the use of advanced technologies. The state-of-the-art touch screens and the Virtual Room (VR room), being one of the most technologically advanced VR rooms in the country, make for an unforgettable learning experience for all visitors, whether schoolchildren, tourists, or the public. Kétos dedicates its space to contemporary artistic research and welcomes relevant initiatives or those with a social impact on the neighbourhood, and further promotes any activities which enhance the material and immaterial cultural heritage related to the sea, the old town, and the local traditions.
All of Kétos’ activities have been structured and made an integral part of a broader public science project, also known as public participation in scientific research. At the same time, the centre promotes both environmental educational activities, aimed at protecting the Ionian marine and coastal heritage, and promotes unique tourist experiences to raise financial resources for research. The Association, in fact, gives domestic and international tourists a unique experience of dolphins watching – a symbol of the city of Taranto – in their natural environment, guided by expert researchers specialized in the study of cetaceans found in the Gulf of Taranto.
Before or after coming to the Kétos center, visitors can become “Researchers for a Day” by boarding boats designed and built to engage visitors in activities that protect and preserve cetaceans that have lived in the waters of the Gulf of Taranto for more than 4,000 years. Together with the researchers, the visitors can identify different types of cetaceans by photographing their dorsal fins, they can listen to and record whistles and clicks (vocalizations), collect environmental assessment data from the waters of the Ionian Sea (oceanographic parameters), and complete cetacean sighting forms. The data are published in scientific journals on cetacean conservation and are continuously built into the database.