Dolphins and whales, also known as cetaceans, are incredibly smart, social and complex creatures. They are self aware, meaning that when they are looking in a mirror they know they are seeing themselves reflected back. The dolphin’s brain has emotional and cognitive abilities similar to our own. According to Dr. Lori Marino, a leading researcher in whale and dolphin brain anatomy, “It may be that many cetacean species have achieved a level of social-emotional sophistication not achieved by other animals, including humans.” For too many years the captivity industry has been ignoring the scientific facts about the animals they keep hostage in their tanks. It is time we make them acknowledge the complexities, emotions and intelligence of cetaceans.
Although marine parks and aquariums would have you believe that their main objective is to educate the public, there is no evidence supporting they are truly educating anyone. There is no educational benefit from seeing an animal in a captive setting. The dolphins and whales in tanks are not eating, socializing, reproducing, exercising, or behaving naturally. Everything you see at a marine park or aquarium is a forced behavior. Parks and trainers give out false and misleading information during their shows and tours. For example, visitors are told that orcas in captivity live just as long if not longer than orcas in the wild. The truth is that wild orcas live much longer than those suffering in captivity. Trainers during shows will also attempt to explain away the reason for the collapsed dorsal fin of male orcas. The reality is that 100% of captive male orcas have a collapsed dorsal fin. The lack of activity and exposure to the sun is the cause for this unnatural occurrence. Less than 1% of the wild male orcas have a collapsed dorsal fin. These are the facts that the captivity industry tries to hide from you.
There is no need to imprison these sentient animals for entertainment and monetary reasons. The future for our world should be in eco-tourism. We should be teaching people of all ages to respect wildlife and the wild spaces they come from. Swimming with a captive dolphin that is performing a forced behavior due to food deprivation is not teaching respect – it is teaching dominance and disrespect.