Captive Dolphins Suffer - Say No to Dolphinariums
In a recent article for the BBC, a former dolphin trainer from the Japanese town of Taiji – made infamous by the movie The Cove – gave an account of her life in the trade. On Taiji’s place in the international dolphin trade, she said that foreigners would often come to Taiji to buy dolphins as it was the only place in the world where they were able to buy dolphins so easily.
The fishermen and the traders of Taiji are responsible for subjecting the dolphins to a cruel fate. It’s death by spear or a lifetime in captivity for the animals. But the captors are not alone in their guilt because the demand for live dolphins comes from the many captive dolphin outlets throughout the world.
A lucrative trade
Captured dolphins make for a lucrative trade for traders, officials and middlemen. Last week, the government of the Solomon Islands (who take 25% revenue in taxes from the sale of each dolphin) made clear that the laws of the nation did not ban dolphin trading. There are powerful financial incentives for capturing and selling dolphins in places such as the Solomons and Japan.
Too many people think dolphin shows – where dolphins perform all sorts of tricks for the amusement of the audience – are good harmless family fun. They may not be aware of the cruelty and needless suffering. These same people would be horrified at the thought of taking their children to a dog fight or watching an animal torture video.
English: Dolphinarium in Yalta (Hotel Yalta), Ukraine Русский: Дельфинарий в Ялте (отель Ялта) Українська: Дельфінарій у Ялті (готель Ялта) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
But they look so happy
The Humane Society of the United States in their webpage on marine mammals in captivity states: “Whales and dolphins travel long distances each day, sometimes swimming in a straight line for a hundred miles, other times remaining in a certain area for hours or days, moving several miles along a coastline and then turning to retrace their path. These marine mammals can dive up to several hundred meters and stay underwater for up to half an hour. They spend only 10 to 20% of their time at the surface.”
A captive dolphin’s lifespan is significantly shorter than that of its wild counterparts.
Swimming with dolphins – can’t be bad?
Since the 1970s, Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT) has been endorsed by some “experts” for helping those with disabilities such as autism. Many children have travelled to Florida and other dolphin hubs in the hope of finding improvement for their condition but the merits of these therapies have been questioned. Animal welfare groups have warned of their dangers to humans and to dolphins. Dolphins can injure or drown people and some carry bacteria that can infect human beings with conditions such as brucellosis.
Recreational swimming with dolphins is still popular in many parts of the world. In the Caribbean, “dolphinariums” cater to the cruiseship traffic.
Clearly, a dolphinarium does not allow these animals to behave in a natural or healthy manner.
The World SPCA outlines some practices dangerous to dolphins such as beaching themselves to be petted and warns against anthropomorphising. Dolphins behave in human-like ways (with gestures such as waving and nodding) because they are hungry and NOT because they are being friendly.
Swimming close to dolphins is great fun – when done in THEIR environment in the wild. I’ve seen grown adults moved to tears while snorkelling with a pod of dolphins in the Red Sea. It’s an experience not to be missed.
End the cruelty of captive dolphins
Earlier this month, Chris Porter, a marine mammal trainer and trader in New Zealand, set free his last 17 dolphins, having become disillusioned with the industry (which enabled him to have a lucrative business). He claims the death of a whale trainer at Sea World by Tilikum – a Killer Whale he once trained – was the turning point in making his decision. Porter asked: “Are we really educating and providing the best representation for these animals in an aquarium?”
How can you help? Next time someone you know suggests an afternoon at the dolphin show, give them some info. If they truly love these animals, they might change their mind. Sign the petitions and do your part; the dolphins need all the help they can get.
If you found this useful, please see Sea Forever, a website dedicated to oceans and green living at [http://www.sustainablewaters.com]