Dolphins are forced to live in enclosures that are just 1 percent of the size of their natural habitats.
As exhilarating and beautiful as it might be, when tourists swim with dolphins while on vacation somewhere, it’s actually not very fun for the dolphins. While they may appear to be having fun and smiling alongside the humans, the darker side of these attractions is starting to be revealed and it’s not very pretty.
A former dolphin trainer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Dodo,
“Dolphins are beautiful and amazing creatures in their natural habitat. But stick them in a cage, and you watch them change.”
He says that dolphins and other cetaceans do not belong in enclosures because it hinders their use of instinctual behaviors and causes them a great deal of stress. As programs where people can swim with dolphins increase, so do the number of dolphins being held in captivity.
During his tenure as a trainer at two different facilities, the trainer, who still works in the Caribbean hotel industry, said that his concern for the treatment of the creatures grew the longer he worked there. At one of the locations, 40 dolphins were forced into three compact cages.
Since the dolphins were in open sea pens rather than housed in manufactured pools, oftentimes nails, fish hooks, and other harmful debris would float into the enclosures and be accidentally swallowed. The facility didn’t have a veterinarian to care for the animals, so there was nothing they could do to save the dolphins as their insides were torn apart by the metal trash.
Though the cages were often cleaned, the smell of chlorine was so strong afterwards that it would choke the trainers and eventually caused several of the dolphins to go blind.
Perhaps the most horrifying allegation that the trainer made is his insinuation that dolphin mothers would sometimes prevent their babies from breathing after they were born; the trainer assumed that this was because the mother did not want them to lead the same life in captivity. Instead, the mom would keep the newborn from reaching the surface in an effort to drown them.
This coincides with claims that the dolphins suffered from “psychosis,” which occurs when animals are forced to live in small, confined areas. The pressure to perform also caused them to get angry, and the trainer said,
“They did 10 interactions a day … the same motions, the same speech, the same signals over and over. They would get frustrated … and aggressive to guests or knock food buckets out of our hands.”
As far as physical health, dolphins in captivity are routinely given antibiotics, medication for ulcers, and vitamin supplements because they eat nutrient-deficient frozen fish and often die prematurely.
Any activity that involves dolphins (other than whale or dolphin watching, where they are seen in their natural habitat) is categorized as a “swim with dolphin” activity, and all of them are harmful to the animals.
By continuing to participate in these tourist attractions, people are contributing to the continuance for these programs. If the demand for the programs goes down because less tourists are interested, then less dolphins will be bred and captured and the programs will eventually shut down. By picking other activities that don’t involve animals, you can positively impact an animal’s life.
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