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“The Life of a Dolphin in Captivity”
|By: LeRoy French
30 January 2009
If you think you are having a bad day, stop and think of what kind of a day
a dolphin in captivity is having. Believe me your day, no matter what you
think, is far better. Nobody ever considers the Dolphins life when they
see them performing their various tricks in a show. You don't in all
honesty believe that a dolphin does these things naturally. Jumping
through rings, tailwalking, coming out of the water and laying on the side of
the pool. These are all unnatural acts for this animal, Here are the
gruesome details of how dolphins are treated in captivity.
The very nature of these animals make them unsuitable for confinement.
In the wild these animals live in very tight family units with strong bonds.
These family bonds often last for years. The sea to dolphins is like air to
birds---a three dimensional environment, where they can move in all
directions. Dolphins seldom come to shore and are always swimming,
even while they sleep, swimming as much as 40 to 100 miles per day.
In a pcolthey are swimming in circles. 53% of dolphins who survive their
violent capture die within 90 days Their average life span is 45 years (in
the wild). In captivity the average is only 5 years. The tanks they are
forced to live in are in many cases filled with chemicals and bacteria
causing many health problems including blindness. Furthermore, when
dolphins are trapped together, males become agitated and pecking
orders are created which is unknown in the wild and unprovoked attacks
on each other occur. Though fights in the wild do happen at least the
dolphin is able to escape.
Here is the cruel and sad part of the dolphins plight. In order for a trainer
to get the animal to perform various tricks the Pavlovian regime is
introduced. Quite simply the dolphin is kept hungry in order to perform.
Once the animal performs a trick it is then given a piece of fish. Tricks are
not peformed because the dolphin enjoys doing them. First the trainer
finds out how much they will eat and still work. After that they condition the
dolphin to associate certain hand signals with certain tricks resulting in the
dolphin receiving a fish. If a dolphin is not working properly it is locked
away on its own. They are put in a pen and ignored. It's like
psychological torture. Just like a human held in solitary confinement.
When this happens the dolphin eventually loses it communication ability,
despair and suicidal behaviour and unnatural aggression set in brought on
by intense claustrophobia. As the dolphin uses its communication
powers (sound) to hunt fish in the wild, in a pool the need for this is nil. As
a result the skill degenerates. Some scientists claim that dolphin brains
shrink up to 42% when in captivity.
One of the largest threats to captive dolphins is boredom. In the wild this
animal is constantly playing. In a confined pool this actvity is taken away.
Once in captivity they may also allempt to starve themselves to death,
therefore force feeding becomes necessary Twenty years ago Jacques
Cousteau came to the same conclusion after seeing his captive dolphins
simply hit their heads against the hard edge of the pool until they died.
This prompted an anguished Cousteau to recommend that the animals
be left in their natural environment.
This is one of natures most intelligent animals. If you have never seen or
swam with one in the wild then you are missing an incredible experience.
I have had dolphins swim right next to me while scuba diving. I have had
them follow the boat for miles playing in the wake. I have also seen them
in the marine parks and dolphin encounter programs. They belong in the
There is a new film that was previewed at the Sundance Film Festival
recently entitled 'The Cove". The film focuses on dolphin treatment in
Japan and should not be missed.
The dolphin is one of nature's friendliest and most playful wild animals,
and with its superior intelligence does not deserve to be imprisoned.
It is our responsibility as humans to protect these animals and to speak
out against their abuse.