Dolphins may look like they are smiling. But they are not.
Dolphins don’t express emotions with their facial muscles. Their mouth is just shaped in a way that we humans misinterpret as a smile. So even when a dolphin is suffering from high stress, visitors to marine parks often come away thinking that the dolphin is having a good time. This is usually far from the truth.
Captive dolphins are abducted dolphins.
Dolphins are highly intelligent social creatures that live in pods, forming close bonds with family members. Humans visitors to marine aquariums often fail to see that the dolphins there had to have been ripped from their natural ocean environments, snatched away from their family and pod mates, held in nets, carried in trucks, hoisted into planes and flown for hours.
Most dolphins die during capture.
30% to 80% of dolphins die during the capture itself, mostly from drowning in the nets and from wounds sustained during the process. Others may die pretty soon after, from the stress, panic and trauma. Think about it this way. To bring a single dolphin into an aquarium, the captors may have caused the death of four of her pod mates.
Transport is traumatic.
A dolphin’s body is not adapted to air temperatures or the effects of gravity on land. So when a dolphin is hoisted out of the water, she can overheat very quickly. And the sudden pressure of her own body weight over her inner organs can cause severe pain and sometimes permanent cramps all over its body. Imagine going through such agony for ten to twelve hours while being transported to a new water tank. These cramps can even make the dolphin incapable of moving when lowered back into the water, resulting in death by drowning.
Captivity is sensory deprivation.
Dolphins in the wild are very curious animals and live in a world full of sounds, sights, movement, colour, varying landscapes and changing currents. Contrast this with the captive environment – often four walls in a land-based lagoon devoid of visual or auditory stimuli. There’s nowhere to go except back and forth. And nothing to do except turn round and round.
The food is now dead fish, and it arrives in a bucket. The dolphins in concrete-walled pools face the worst hell of all, with their sonar bouncing back and forth deafeningly.
There’s nothing natural about their new lives.
The late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau said: “No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.” Free-living dolphins from the ocean are accustomed to three-dimensional surroundings, to diving deep and travelling great distances. These conditions cannot be duplicated in captivity, where natural feeding and foraging patterns are lost and even behaviours associated with mating, dominance, and maternal care are severely altered.
Captivity leads to insanity.
Prisoners in solitary confinement, caged zoo animals and captive dolphins develop similar behaviour patterns. They pace back and forth, rock and sway, bang their heads and in the case of dolphins, swim endlessly in tight circles. This is called stereotypical behaviour and it’s a sign of neurosis. It stems from the destruction of the dolphin's sophisticated social structure, the feelings of intense claustrophobia and the profound frustration from being unable to hunt or behave naturally. The symptoms may even include suicidal behaviour and unnatural aggression.
Keeping dolphins in captivity shows a lack of intelligence in humans.
Dolphins are incredibly clever creatures, even brighter than chimpanzees according to some scientists. They are capable of great emotion and sensitivity. Some researchers have suggested that they should be treated as “non-human persons”. We have to ask ourselves if it is morally acceptable, or even clever of us humans, to confine such amazing animals in amusement parks.
©2011 ACRES Singapore