– By Olivia Perez
Countries around the world are taking a stand against dolphin captivity. South Korea just approved a ban on importing dolphins captured in the Taiji hunts, Greece banned animal performances in 2012, and the last dolphinarium in the UK closed more than 20 years ago. But here in Australia, Sea World on the Gold Coast is turning a deaf ear to public pleas calling for an end to dolphin captivity.
Countless studies have shown captive dolphins suffer from stress, anxiety and early death. But these are not the only factors to consider when talking about captivity. According to the What about Dolphins in Captivity? report published by Dr Joan Gonzalvo, dolphins are exposed to a rich, ever-changing environment when in the wild – which is not something marine theme parks can provide.
“Dolphinaria and aquaria cannot even begin to simulate the natural habitats of these species,” Gonzalvo states. “The natural activity levels, sociality, hunting behaviours, acoustic perceptions, and indeed their nature, the very essence of those creatures that I have been privileged to observe over the years in their natural environment, are all severely compromised by the circumstances of captivity (i.e., small and sterile environments).”
Even though we know captivity to be cruel, and despite a 1985 Australian Senate report confirming captive dolphins suffer from behavioural abnormalities, this cruel practice continues.
Two dolphin parks remain open in Australia: Dolphin Marine Magic and Sea World on the Gold Coast. On its website, Sea World boasts about having “a strong reputation for caring for marine animals, along with an exemplary record of animal care, research and rescue accomplishments”. But the truth is, there is nothing natural about dolphins being coerced to perform circus tricks day in day out for frozen fish scraps. Not to mention being subjected to loud music, and increased human contact where the public is allowed to stroke and touch their skin – which can prove highly stressful to dolphins in captivity.
Many marine parks like Sea World claim that by breeding these animals in captivity, they are helping to conserve them. But there is simply no evidence that justifies keeping and breeding of dolphins for conservation reasons. According to A Crumbling Case for Cetacean Captivity?, keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is not required to help scientists study, nor is it required for conservation purposes.
“With each passing year, the number of marine mammal scientists, biologists and other experts who say there are few, if any, substantive benefits in keeping cetaceans captive increases,“ the report found. It goes on to highlight that unless the dolphins being bred are part of a release program, any claims that captive breeding aids the species conservation are unfounded. “Certainly captive breeding and release programs can benefit a small range of endangered wildlife species, but that does not apply to the cetacean species most commonly kept in captivity or to most other marine mammal species”.
Regardless of the studies, one only has to watch dolphins playing freely in the wild, surfing waves and diving deep to the bottom of the ocean to know where these beautiful wild animals belong. If you agree its time to stop breeding dolphins into tanks for entertainment, make your voice heard!
It is time to empty the tanks, and make sure all dolphins are born in their natural ocean homes – where they belong.