Stolen from the Wild
Let’s dispel the myth that all ‘captive’ dolphins and whales in theme parks were bred in captivity. The truth is many captive dolphins were once wild and free. While some water parks obtain dolphins legally, others find that doing so takes more time and money than they are willing to invest. As a result, a thriving illegal trade in wild-caught dolphins has emerged to meet the demand.
The capture of wild Dolphins is extremely violent, inherently cruel and detrimental to the overall population.
Dolphins are chased to exhaustion by people in motor boats, who separate a few animals from the rest of the group before they corral them with a net. In a blind panic, dolphins often injure themselves as they ram the sides of the net trying to escape. Injury and often death, usually by drowning are the tragic outcome. For the survivors, things don’t get any better - they are subjected to further trauma as they endure transportation in boats, shallow pens on trucks, and then between countries on long-haul flights. No surprise then, that studies reveal that the mortality rate amongst captive dolphins is six times higher!
Dolphins are intelligent and social creatures that, in the wild, live and interact within their pods, working together to raise their young and hunt for food. Food is always fresh, and they have entire oceans as their playground. Wild dolphins may swim up to 40 or 50 miles a day and dive to depths of hundreds of metres.
In captivity, they have none of this. Social partners are restricted to tank-mates - often, completely unrelated, they are fed frozen fish, they are constricted by walls and have no space to roam free so they lack stimulation and soon become restless. Even in the largest captive facilities, dolphins have access to less than one-ten-thousandth of a percent (0.000001%) of the space available to them in their natural environment. Because of this, captive dolphins often swim in circles - a sign that the dolphin is suffering psychologically; this is known as “stereotypical behaviour”.
According to US regulations, dolphin pens only need to be 24 x 24 feet and 6 feet deep! In warmer climates, shallow water heats quickly. This is extremely uncomfortable, and often deadly, for dolphins unable to escape to deeper, cooler waters. Not only is there no relief from the heat, but also the dolphin's sensitive skin can be exposed to the sun's scorching rays, causing blistering and sores.
In some dolphin parks, they use cement to make the pools. Here they add chlorine to the water to keep bacteria levels safe for humans, but the levels of chlorine used, inflict pain and suffering on a dolphin's sensitive skin and eyes, causing skin lesions and leading to blindness.
It’s clear to us that NO captive facility no matter how much space it can provide or how good its intentions might be can adequately provide for a dolphin's complex needs.
Public perception is changing following films such as ‘Black Fish’ that looked behind the scenes at SeaWorld and from the awareness raised by people like Ric O’Barry through his Dolphin Project. Theme parks are quick to claim their entertainment as being ‘educational' or it has conservation value, for the benefit of the species. In reality, watching captive dolphins being forced to ‘perform’ tricks based on human emotions and interactions has no educational or conservation value to Dolphins.
Increasingly more of these parks are playing the ‘conservation card” claiming they are committed to conserving the species. The truth is less than 10% of captive facilities are involved in any form of wild dolphin conservation programs. Of the 10% involved, the finance they put into these programs is just a tiny fraction of the income generated by their activities. Some parks now promote themselves rescue centre’s - saving stranded whales and dolphins - but most marine mammals die after they are rescued, a few survive rehabilitation to be released back to the wild but most released animals are not monitored - so the outcomes remain unknown. What is known though, is that some rescued animals who were suitable for release are in actually retained by the parks for public display.
Save Me does not believe there is any justification in terms of conservation or education to keep, highly intelligent, sentient animals in captivity and force them to perform for human entertainment.