Thousands of whales and dolphins (known collectively as cetacea) are held in hundreds of zoos and dolphinaria across the world. An unsustainable industry, animals are still taken from the wild to stock a growing number of captive facilities. Deprived of their freedom and choice in an alien environment, captive whales and dolphins are usually trained to perform unnatural behaviour or interact with people in swim-with or petting activities.
In the wild, the smallest bottlenose dolphin home ranges are on the order of 125 square kilometres. Orcas can dive as deep as 400 metres2 and may travel as far as 150 kilometres in a day. Almost always in motion, cetaceans spend only 20% or less of their time at the water’s surface. Captive facilities cannot compare to the vast natural environment of wild cetaceans and even the largest facilities are just a fraction of the animals’ natural home range in size. When denied adequate space, large, wide-ranging carnivores commonly develop problems such as abnormal repetitive behaviour, aggression and reduced life expectancy.
The number of dolphins bred in captivity does not replace the number that die. They suffer from high mortality rates, low breeding success and often endure physical and psychological disorders. Cetacea are frequently captured from the wild and sold into captivity. The methods of capture, and subsequent transport, can be extremely cruel and some animals die of shock or injury in the process. Born Free works actively at both a European and global level, raising awareness about the plight of dolphins and whales in captivity, campaigning against their continued capture from the wild to maintain the captive industry, challenges their use in swim-with activities and campaigns for higher standards of care and their inclusion in national and international animal protection legislation.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: