“Six dolphins live in a tiny, 15x22m dirty pool in Bulgaria. They float listlessly, or perform silly tricks. Bored senseless, they then eat balls, parts of broken pool walls, paint, nets and other rubbish. They vomit and then eat it again.”
“Shocking display of captive dolphins in Egypt. Captured wild from the Black Sea, they seemed detached; forced to pose for pictures, ‘kiss’ swimmers and transport them again and again across the 15m pool.”
“Four sickly dolphins are held in a tennis court-sized pool in Turkey. The water is murky, and the dolphins have lots of scratches and scars where they have bashed into wire mesh surrounding the pool.”
How dare we humans inflict such cruelty on other animals?
Dolphins are vibrant, extraordinary creatures, intelligent and perceptive. Yet we keep them cooped up in shallow, concrete tanks; in water treated with a host of harsh chemicals, which irritate their eyes and sensitive skin.
Conditions are frequently appalling, even life-threatening. We force them to perform stupid, unnatural tricks and interact with people. And this is meant to be ‘entertainment’? 'Education'?
Dolphinaria and marine parks are still a major tourist attraction all over the world. Captive dolphins are depressingly popular with misguided holiday-makers, wanting to experience some of that ‘dolphin magic’.
But captivity can be torture for dolphins. It’s not surprising they suffer terrible stress and psychological disorders. Captive dolphins get sick and diseased. They die young. But cursed with a permanent ‘smile’, their anguish is hidden behind a mask of happiness.
Here in Europe, hundreds of dolphins are held captive. Worldwide there are literally thousands of captive dolphins in at least 250 marine centres. They endure a bleak, deprived and pointless existence. It must be agony.
This isn’t how dolphins are meant to live. Life in the wild is complex, unpredictable and challenging. Dolphins are ideally designed to flourish in this rich, varied environment.
They swim so fast! Wild dolphins reach speeds of over 25 miles (40km) per hour. They’re far-ranging too, swimming 100 miles (150km) a day or more. Deep-diving, they reach depths of up to 300m. Dolphins are highly social, and travel in large, extended family groups, communicating with intricate calls and whistles.
What a contrast to their monotonous, predictable life in captivity… It is utterly disgraceful we betray the trust of these friendly, playful beings from the ‘blue planet’ and thrust them into such a bleak, alien, concrete world to ‘entertain’ us.
Captive dolphins suffer high infant mortalities and low breeding success. Dozens of dolphins are still caught from the wild to bolster unsustainable captive populations. I have seen film footage and I can’t begin to describe the horrors of wild captures, the distress it entails.
‘Swim with dolphin' facilities are wildlife exploitation at its worst and a massive animal welfare problem worldwide. At Born Free we are determined to do everything we can to stop this suffering and end the keeping of dolphins in captivity. See the report for details.
I am sure you feel as I do. Please help us. Together we can fight dolphin abuse worldwide. Together we can speak up for the voiceless.
Yes humans are capable of terrible, thoughtless things. But we also have the potential to be remarkable and deeply compassionate. Let those of us who care, those of us who understand, stand up and be counted. We can and will make the world a better place for dolphins.
My very best wishes as always.
Virginia McKenna OBE
Founder and Trustee