Pledge for dolphins


On National Dolphin Day, Born Free’s Samantha Goddard explains why we should not overlook the plight of dolphins in captivity

There are thousands of dolphins in captivity around the world: charismatic, intelligent animals; one imagines we would never overlook, but have we?

With so much focus on calls to end the keeping of orcas in captivity in recent years, there is a risk that the plight of dolphins in captivity has been somewhat ignored. For example, while SeaWorld, USA, has ended the breeding of its captive orcas in the wake of the Blackfish documentary, it has made no such pledge for its beluga whales or dolphins. They will continue to be bred in captivity, and continue to suffer a miserable existence in barren, restricted tanks.

Dolphins in particular are still widely used in theatrical style shows often seen jumping through hoops, doing somersaults, pushing staff through the water and pulling children in inflatable boats around a pool. This is an obvious exploitation of these magnificent and intelligent animals, and to me begs the question: why is there still an appetite to see dolphins in captivity? If anything, the exploitation of dolphins is as bad as ever as capture from the wild continues. Dolphins are still taken from the wild to stock a growing number of captive facilities, developing at a deadly rate, particularly in China where there are at least 76 dolphinaria and another 25 in the planning stages. 

Let’s face it, dolphins are kept on display, in countries around the world, for no reason other than for entertainment. Have we become desensitised to seeing these animals outside of their natural habitat, and the suffering that causes?

Like so many others, I too am concerned about the threats faced by wildlife, but will forever oppose the use of these concerns to justify the keeping of animals, including dolphins, in the impoverished conditions provided in captivity. 

Just as efforts must be made to protect dolphins in our oceans, those living in tanks need saving too. If you agree with me, please pledge not to visit a dolphinarium or see a dolphin show.