Captive Cetaceans as Ambassadors


    We’ve all heard Seaworld’s exotic animals described as ambassadors, or representatives for their species as a whole. Yet captive animals like killer whales and dolphins live in artificial conditions. Their lives in no way, shape, or form, mirror that of wild animals. When an audience sits down to watch a dolphin show, they are observing trained exotic animals performing and acting on “stage.”

    In the wild orcas and dolphins socialize, breach, spy hop, and play in the surf. In captivity they beach themselves, wave “hi” and give hugs and kisses. None of these behaviors are naturally occuring. Especially not ones involving trainers in the water with the

This slideout behavior in which a dolphin beaches itself is not only unnatural for a healthy dolphin, but also very dangerous.

 animals. How can these animals be ambassadors when their behavior doesn’t resembles that of their wild cousins?

“The animals here are really ambassadors for the animals out in the world. If it wasn’t for places like Miami Seaquarium, how often would people get to see a killer whale?” Robert Rose Miami Seaquarium Curator

    There are many whale and dolphin watching opportunities out there, but because of captive animal shows, many people become turned off to the idea. Captivity is more entertaining, more glamorous, and the chance of seeing a dolphin or whale is guaranteed. To say that these people are never going to see a wild dolphin does not justify keeping them captive.

   “These very same people are never going to see a snow leopard. Should we go drag some snow leopards out of the Himalayas for them as well? I think if you want to see Grand Canyon you have to go see Grand Canyon. That’s how it works. That’s how it should work with these dolphins and whales.” Ric O’ Barry Save the Dolphins; Earth Island Institute

There are many animals, people, and places that are largely unseen by the general public, yet are apprieciated. In fact, I think an argument can be made that a certain amount of distance between us and wildlife, encourages more respect for these creatures than if they were to be on display in our own cities as circus clowns.

“No one has ever seen a dinosaur or petted one or fed one and yet they are beloved. If you ask an 8 year old boy or girl anything about dinosaurs they can rattle off all the facts, they know

Whale watchers catch a glimpse of a wild orca in its natural habitat.

   everything. They are not suffering from never having actually seen a dinosaur. And they won’t suffer from never actually seeing these large animals in captivity.” Lori Marino PhD, Marine Mammal Behavior Biologist

   Not only are captives not qualified to represent their wild counterparts, but we are selfish if we think it’s okay to take dolphins out of their enviroment and to put them into ours, to force them to live against their nature for our entertainment.

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