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Q&A with World Animal Protection

Could you tell us about the heartbreaking process of taking dolphins from their natural habitat into the water parks entertainment business?

In many places around the world, dolphins are taken from the wild so they can entertain tourists.The capture process is extremely violent, inherently cruel and detrimental to the overall population. In fact, dolphins are six times more likely to die after capture or transport. In some instances, the animals are chased to exhaustion by speedboats, which separate a few dolphins from the rest of the group and corral them with a net. Panicked dolphins often injure themselves trying to escape, and death (usually by drowning) can occur.After capture, dolphins are subjected to further trauma during travel in boats, shallow pens on trucks, or between countries on long-haul flights before they reach their end destination: a small, barren cement pool or tiny tank to spend the rest of their lives in. 

How do dolphins really feel in the water park pools?

Dolphins can travel 40-100 miles a day, achieve speeds of 30 miles per hour, and dive hundreds of feet deep. However, even in the largest park pools, they have less than 0.0001% (one millionth) of their natural habitat range. Dolphins in captivity have been documented exhibiting signs of boredom, including logging or floating lifelessly for long periods of time, biting the bars of the tank or chewing the concrete wall, or exhibiting signs of unnatural aggression to tank mates unable to escape for safety.Additionally, dolphins in marine parks or other dolphinaria are often traded from venue to venue, making the pods they live in artificial. In the wild, dolphins swim with up to hundreds of other animals, and in some cases (superpods) thousands, at their choosing. However, in captivity, they are forced to interact with other dolphins whom they may not have chosen to interact with in the wild.

How come it is 2019, and the water parks entertainment business are still operating? Did something change in the past few years?

These venues and attractions are still operating because there’s a demand for this type of entertainment. The general public doesn’t know the cruelty behind these shows and until we educate everyone on this issue, people will still keep buying tickets and ultimately supporting dolphin cruelty.The documentary Blackfish did bring some attention to how orcas, the largest species of dolphins, suffer in captivity, which led to some backlash against keeping these apex predators in captivity, but we need continued momentum to end this type of wildlife entertainment. 

Dolphins are always smiling, does that mean they are happy?

No, that is a common misconception that we’d like to bring light to. They may look like they are smiling but it’s only because dolphins cannot move their facial muscles to communicate feelings like humans can. Dolphins appear to smile even while injured or seriously ill. The smile is a feature of a dolphin's anatomy unrelated to its health or emotional state. They even smile when they’re dead.

What’s the best way to observe and learn about dolphins without supporting a captive dolphin park or a "swim with the dolphins" program?

Similar to whale watching tours, there are often dolphin watching tourist attractions that people can participate in. These tours allow people to see the animals they love without directly interacting with them and therefore causing harm.Additionally, there are great nature documentaries, similar to Planet Earth or Blue Planet, that can amaze and inspire individuals to keep wild animals, like dolphins, wild.

How World Animal Protection helps the dolphins in the entertainment business?

World Animal Protection works to protect sea life around the world and educate the public on the problem of keeping marine animals in captivity. By releasing The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity (CAMMIC), we are bringing much needed awareness to the suffering and cruelty these marine animals experience within captive environments around the world.For more information, read our The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity (CAMMIC) report here and more dolphin facts.

Photos by World Animal Protection

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