Dolphins and Delphinidaes captivity (common bottlenose dolphins, orcas, belugas, as well as pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins or river dolphins) raises serious problems in terms of ethics, research and education. Scientific studies clearly prove that these species are not adapted to live in a tank. Forcing them to live as captive animals is an aggravated mistreatment even though some captured dolphins manage to live several decades in such conditions. The common bottlenose dolphin (also called Tursiops truncatus) is the most common species exposed in shows throughout Europe. We concentrate our efforts on this species. But orcas and belugas also show higher mortality rates due to their sizes, ethological needs and specific cultures. As for deep-sea dolphins, they cannot bear being captive. Here are the reasons why we condemn dolphins captivity:
I. Dolphins are intelligent and should be given the status of “non-human persons”
Lots of scientific studies indicate that dolphins have intellectual capacities equal or even superior to human beings. Below, you will find significant examples of this intelligence:
Dolphins are self-aware
It has been proved by the famous “mirror test”. Each individual is aware of itself, it inspects its own body with interest, opens its mouth to see its tongue or teeth, makes “funny faces” and U-turns, as well as it recognizes its fellow creatures. In the ocean, dolphins have fun looking at themselves thanks to divers’ masks. Did you know that a dolphin brain are bigger than a human’s and that it has more convolutions? In February 2010, the scientific experts gathered in San Diego for the Annual congress of the American Association for the Advancement of Science even came to the conclusion that dolphins might be smarter and more evoluted that human beings (based on the extraordinary development of the frontal lobe, where lies consciousness and associative cognition.
Dolphins live in complex and organised societies
Tursiops communities are organised in “tribes” composed of about a hundred of individuals, male and female, of any age (from 0 to more than 60 in average), divided into small “clans” or families from 5 to 15 individuals. These dolphins often meet other communities. They do not fight for territory, on the contrary, they exchange, they become friends and create unions. Thus, we talk about “super-tribes”, that can be compared to “nations”. Females are the core of the dolphin’s society. They live near the males that are grouped on the opposite side of the territory. They often leave to meet females that do not belong to the community. In this respect, the “squealed signature” of dolphins – their names actally – is used to determine to which clan the other dolphins belong.
All these characteristics indicate that dolphins are as intelligent (or maybe more) as human beings
Each itelligence depends on the sensory system of a species. The mental universe of dolphins is fundamentally different from our’s since it is based on acoustics more than on sight. Nevertheless, dolphins share some values with humans such as curiosity, solidarity, culture, language, creativity etc. Letting them captive only to do some tricks in exchange of dead fish is clearly a form of slavery to which the Dolphin Connection is strongly opposed.
II. Captivity drastically reduces the quality and life expectancy of dolphins
Contrary to most species, that can live longer in captivity than in their naturel environment, captive dolphins live 20 years less, in average, than their wild fellows. Males can live more than 40 years and females more than 60 years in the ocean. The dolphinariums propaganda affirms that, on the contrary, they do not survive more than 25 years and that their intelligence is situated between the dog’s and the monkey’s, which reprensents one of the crassiest lies spread by this industry. Such a mortality can be explained by the stress generated by captive life. It involves several weaking factors that can attack the immunologic resistance or the psyche of cetaceans:
A sensory deprivation: hearing is the most important sense for dolphins
Hearing is made through echolocation (or sonar), which enables dolphins to “see with sounds” (as bats or like the echography tools used in medecine). But, in a tank made with concrete, the acoustic waves rebound on the walls, which muffles the dolphins that use their sonars. They cannot use it, but should we remember that captive dolphins can quickly memorize the prison in which they are trapped. Notice that all the tanks are empty. They want the dolphin to stay on the surface and to deprive the dolphin of any entertainment, contrary to the free dolphin that spends almost 80% of its time underwater.
A social deprivation: Captive dolphins are uprooted beings
Captive dolphins are uprooted, separated from their families and placed with other dolphins, from different groups. They find themselves in an artificial and unstructured social context, introduced as a “small family” (Mommy, Daddy and the children) whereas this type of family pattern does not correspond to what prevails in nature since the males do not live with females. Captive dolphins do not understand the language or the culture of their fellows (id est: Tursiops truncatus, Tursiops ponticus or Tursiops aduncus, all mixed…), which increases the stress of life in a tank. Promiscuity, caracteristic of any kind of prison, pen or cage can be the origin of endless agressiveness. Males fight each other to death and females drown the babies of the other female dolphins. Nothing that builds dolphins societies is respected in dolphinariums.
An unconcealed attempt to domesticate them
About 70% of captive dolphins currently living in Europe are born captive, generally from a founding male, i.e., caught in the ocean. Totally unconscious of their natural way of life, submitted to the good will of their trainers, physically disminished, these captive-born have become distorted creatures: they have nothing in common with wild dolphins.
Their mortality rate is extremely high, especially during adolescence, i.e., between 10 or 12 years. Remember that domesticating a non-human animal is obtained after thousands of years: dogs, horses, Bovidae, sheep have been domesticated long before Neolethic. In the manner of the elephant and the chimp, the cetacean, remains a “wild animal”, even in captivity.
A physical exercise deprivation
A wild dolphin can swim more than 60 miles in a day, to hunt, have fun and socialiee. In tanks, dolphins are condemned to go around and around in a tiny space. For orcas, this behaviour corresponds to a settling of the caudale fin, a well-known sign of depression. This stress results in a high mortality rate of captive dolphins, especially for the younger ones. They develop ulcer and other infections due to their food, which is artificially enriched with vitamins, antidepressants and other antibiotics, and the absence of authentic seawater, renewed by currents and containing trace elements that are not present in the chlorinated or purified by ozone water in which they swim since they are born. Stress and despair caused by miscarriages, the unexpected departure of a companion to another retention structure or the integration of a new member in an already formed group, generated self-mutilation (dolphins throw themselves to the walls of their tanks) and suicidal behaviours (breathing is a conscious act for cetaceans, they can decide to stop breathing to commit suicide).
Harmful conditions of life
The tanks and conditions of life in dolphinariums do not meet the physiologic and social needs of dolphins. Chlorinated water is harmfulm for dolphins. They cause skin diseases and respiratory problems, well-known by humans since chlorine can cause asthma. The ozone used as chlorine in some dolphinariums are at the origin of other skin pathologies. And the treatment of water (loaded with faeces), lead to the high presence of coliforms, which is the origin of many diseases. In nature, dolphins fight but they can flee to end the fight. In a tank, it is impossible, that is why they are often hurt. Considering the current scientific knowledge on dolphins, the dolphinariums do not abide by the law demanding that captive species must have the means to live normally in the environment recreated by man. However, it is possible to recreate the ocean in such a small space, even a lagoon like in Harderwijck or in Antibes.
III. Dolphinariums participate in the dolphins slaughter in Japan
“The Cove” movie has highlighted the link between the industry of dolphins captivity and the slaughters that take place every year in Taiji, Japan. A part of captured dolphins is sold to dolphinariums from all over the world (Europe, America, Asia), while the rest are slaughtered for their meat. A living dolphin can bring in $150.000, whereas dead dolphins are sold around $600. Dolphins are also mass-captured in other parts of the world, such as the Solomon Islands or other countries in crisis (Haiti, Cuba, West Africa, etc.) where the regulations of the CITES has no power because of the lack of a concerned government.
Say “NO” to dolphinariums!
For all these reasons, La Dolphin Connection is strongly opposed to the captivity of dolphins. It is a cruel and non-ethical treatment for a species that have proved to possess at least as much social, moral and intellectual caracteristics as humans. Cetaceans are authentic “people” of the ocean and must be protected and be given a juridical personality as such. Thus, in total adequacy with the Helsinki Declaration of May 2010, adopted by scientists, philosophers and worldwide known specialists, La Dolphin Connection defends the concept of “Rights of the persons” for dolphins and cetaceans.