. . why training dolphins is not a career for the future .And
Dolphinariums show us the image of a playing dolphin, gentle and quick to entertain us. But behind this façade hides a sad reality: these intelligent animals are enslaved by food and suffer endlessly from the perils of captivity.
In acknowledgement of the International Week of Dolphin Captivity (from July 1-7), we have put together ten reasons to keep dolphins out of marine parks. This list is just as valuable for future dolphin trainers as it is for the dolphins themselves—the best way to help a dolphin is to fight for it’s rights in the wild.
A large dolphin can eat up to 25 kg of fish per day—knowing this, one fish per trick seems like a small reward. Once a dolphin is full, they are still expected to obey orders from their trainers, even though they have no compelling reason to do so. In this interview, ex-dolphin trainer Richard O’Barry explains this process and why he had to use five different dolphins during the filming of the famous TV show, Flipper.
2. The life span of a captive dolphin is far shorter than a wild dolphin
A wild dolphin can live as long as 40-50 years. In dolphinariums, the life expectancy is half of that, at best. The dolphins fall victim to stress, skin illnesses from excess chlorine, and mental exhaustion that can lead to self-harm and suicide. (“Flipper committed suicide,” Richard O’Barry confirms here)
In dolphinariums, reproduction is difficult. For the most part, marine parks must replenish their supply of dolphins (since their life expectancy is short in captivity) by taking them from the wild. In addition to hurting or killing the dolphins during the capture, these kidnappings have terrible effects on the pods of wild dolphins. Dolphins are hyper-social animals, and their entire lives can be spent mourning for the loss of a single member.
4. Wild dolphins that are forced into captivity find themselves away from their family and everything else they’ve ever known.
Each pod of dolphins is different; they have different languages and a different culture. The new group in a marine entertainment park is foreign to a wild-caught dolphin, leaving them stressed, lonely, and confused.
This reality is described in detail in the film The Cove . It shows fisherman herding large numbers of dolphins from the open ocean, choosing the best “specimens” to be sold to marine parks for $150,000 a piece. The rest of the animals are slaughtered, destined for Japanese fish markets or school cafeterias. Sign this petition today against the massacres in Taiji.
6. The “education” that marine parks teach is far from the truth.
Seeing captured dolphins that are sick, stressed, and forced to learn acrobatic tricks does not give the public a true education on the nature of these animals. The employees of dolphinariums pretend that the dolphins love taking pictures and constant human interaction, but these are wild animals. Their purpose is not to entertain us, and they have a right to their own freedom, just like we do.
7. Visiting a marine park reinforces the idea that there is a strong demand for these shows
If dolphin shows weren’t profitable, they wouldn’t exist for very long. Don’t participate in the prosperity of this industry—stop the flow of money, and stop the captivity of wild dolphins.
8. It is impossible for a dolphin to live a decent life in captivity
Captivity is absolutely incompatible with the innate needs of a dolphin. In the ocean, they chase their prey for hundreds of kilometers a day. In dolphinariums, they have no choice but to eat dead fish and swim in endless circles around their tank. These conditions lead to their ultimate demise—they become crazy, engage in incest and self-mutilation, and behave completely against their nature.
In the United States, military research and the dolphinarium industry are linked by common interests. This is exactly what Ric O’Barry, among others, points out: if certain scientists funded by the Office of Naval Research (and there are a lot) claim that dolphins do not have high mental abilities, it is because they know first-hand that it would be ethically unacceptable to keep animals of such elevated intelligence in captivity.
10. The best reason to avoid dolphinariums? Anyone who truly loves dolphins cannot stand to see them suffer.
You can still see dolphins while respecting them—go to their natural living environment instead of the prison we have put them in. Wild dolphins have shown us their friendship and camaraderie for years—they approach our boats, surfboards, and docks. Dolphins have been known to save countless human lives, whether it be from a shark attack or rough seas, and that alone demands ultimate respect.
This desire may be innate in humans, both in our relationship with each other and the plants and animals we share this world with. But with this power comes a great responsibility–respecting dolphins as intelligent, sensible, social, and complex is the only ethical choice. Participating in an immoral exploitation is not in the best wishes of dolphins or humans, despite what some may say. Marine entertainment parks are not the only way to discover these animals, just like a dolphin trainer is not the only way to interact with them. We may have put them in captivity, but we can get them out.