Baby Ji-Ling was only a calf when he died at Dolphin Marine Magic in Coffs Harbour, Australia. The park has refused to release necropsy results, but the regulator has said “leaf litter” was a likely cause.
In order words, it’s likely this baby dolphin swallowed litter left in his litter-strewn pool until so much piled up inside him he died. We can only imagine the pain he endured.
While marine parks do their best to cover up the horror stories, there are countless tales of dolphins being seriously injured or killed in captivity (our huge thanks to Oceanic Preservation Society for collecting these and many other stories).
One of the dangers of marine parks is the risk of accidents occurring with many animals in confined concrete pools. In 2008, Sharky (above) collided in mid-air with another dolphin while performing a leap in a live performance at Discovery Cove, Florida. Sharky died soon after from traumatic head injuries. The other dolphin, Tyler, was also injured.
Dolphins in captivity have been documented bashing their heads against concrete walls in frustration, which can cause painful injuries. In 2005, a dolphin called Howard died from bleeding in the brain at Theater of the Sea in Florida. Many other captive dolphins have died from brain injuries, infection or bleeding.
Using dolphins for circus entertainment is not only mistreatment of wild animals, it can result in fatal injuries. At SeaWorld in the US, multiple dolphins have died from spine fractures, “acute trauma” and “acute haemorrhaging”.
The US Marine Mammal Inventory database records multiple dolphin deaths at Sea World Australia in recent decades. The causes of death include spine fractures, twisted bowels, “operating stress”, injury during a fight, heart and mammary abcesses, haemorrhaging and severe anaemia.
Dolphins in captivity may suffer from high stress, which is documented to weaken their immune systems and increase their susceptibility to infection and disease. The above dolphin has an eye infection – a common ailment for dolphins in captivity.
The dolphin below has “rake” marks, which are caused from other dolphins’ teeth. When dolphins are confined in small spaces, they inevitably become frustrated. In captivity, there is nowhere for weaker dolphins to hide from the attacks of more dominant dolphins, and they can be seriously injured.
Pepper (above), a dolphin at Ocean World in Florida, was dropped by handlers while being moved from one pool to another. He was seriously injured for life as a result. The park’s veterinarian told press at the time that while Pepper would never perform again, the park still hoped to use him for breeding.
While there is no requirement for Australian marine parks to make the cause of dolphin deaths public, in the US there is mandatory reporting. The SunSentinel newspaper conducted a detailed analysis of US data and found more than 1,127 bottlenose dolphins have died in human care in the US in the past 30 years. Of 875 dolphins whose ages could be determined, half never reached 10 years old, and 83% died before the age of 20. This compares to life expectancy for bottlenose dolphins in the wild of 40-50 years.
The many injuries and deaths dolphins endure in captivity should tell us that it’s time to end this inhumane practice. There is already law reform underway in many European countries, the US and Canada to ban dolphin captivity.
Australia for Dolphins is calling for a ban on dolphin captivity in Australia, starting with the state of New South Wales (NSW).
If you agree, please sign the petition now asking the NSW Premier to ban the cruel practice of dolphin captivity.
If you’ve already added your name – thank you so much! We’d love it if you shared the petition with your friends – we need everyone’s help to convince the Premier.
With enough voices, we can ban dolphin captivity in NSW. Certainly, Australia’s captive dolphins deserve better lives than the short one Ji-Ling endured.