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dolphincaptivity

"Cetaceans - whale and dolphins - are a powerful symbol of the magnificence of nature, epitomizing freedom of the seas. Perhaps no other creature in history has inspired and fascinated humankind more than the dolphin. Yet few people realize the tragedy behind the perpetual dolphin smile."

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Because of their appeal and intelligence, dolphins have been used and abused for over 50 years by the military, in research facilities, and by the captive industry, which puts them in petting pools and swim-with programs.

More than 500 dolphins and other cetaceans are held in over 50 facilities in the U.S. today. These species which has shown to be the most adaptable and popular is the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, although some 20 other species have been exhibited in limted numbers with less success. Between 1973 and 1988, 533 dolphins were captured; the majority (94%) of which were taken from coastal waters of the southeastern United States, an area including the Gulf of Mexico and Florida's Atlantic coast. At least 600 more were taken from Florida waters alone prior to the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972.

dolphintied

- Dolphin Tied By It's Tail During Capture!

The practice of confining dolphins and other cetaceans has been highly criticized in recent years. Professor Hal Markowitz stated, "I know of no marine mammals kept in captivity in natural conditions. As a matter of fact, there is an inherent contradiction in using the term "natural" to refer to captive circumstances." The greatest abuse suffered by dolphins is probably the confinement of these complex social animals, who are accustomed to swimming free in the open ocean with others of their own kind and choosing.

The absence of physical, mental, and emotional stimulations causes boredom and stress; the deprivaton defies, depresses, and denies the instincts that define each animal. The captivity of cetaceans has become an issue of growing controversy, questioned by scientists, former trainers. government officials, and the general public. Heralded by the captive industry as ambassadors of their species" though public relations rheroric, not one individual has voluntarily abandoned its freedom and social status to be confined in barren concrete tanks of chemically treated, often manufactured seawater, and fed unnatural diets.

Ammendments to the MMPA in 1988 now require public display facilities to incorporate elements of edcation and conservation in their programs. This has presented facilities with a dilemma; and accurate depiction of the lives of dolphins could revoke a crusade against confinement, with the public demanding an end to captures, a halt of construction of new facilities, and a phasing out of public display. The workng of the industry are surrounded in secrecy, largely because the exploitation of dolphins and other cetaceans in aquariums and amusemet parks depends on the oublic's belief that the animals are content in captivity.

Through advertising, performance, commentaries and guide books, aquariums have promoted the misconception that dolphins and other cetaceans are happy, care-free, friendly characters. Most marine parks are experienced in entertainment, not education. The animals are used as performers, in the circus tradition, and the performances reinforce the concept of human dominance over animals, while teaching nothing about the animals' own natural history or the concept of interspecies relationships. According to oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, captives represent an illusion of the species they represent, conditioned and deformed, bearing little resemblane to those living in the sea.

The social composite of coastal dolphin populations is generally comprised of females and calves, with the adult and sub-adult males forming separate groups. Adult males may form strong bonds in pair or trios lasting up the ten years. Doninance heirarchies exist in the social structure of both wild and captive dolphins, with adult males dominate over all other tankmates. All adult males captured from the same groups have been maintained together with little aggression; yet when captive groupings contain adult males from different capture localities, the animals have been known to fight vicioulsy over females or lead an injurous attack on a helpeless poolmate. Therefore, most oceanaria now maintains a single adult male per tank.

To little consideratin has been given to the captive dolphin's quality of life. Bizarere and dangerous behavior patterns often occur. For example, one can only speculate why animals equipped with natural echolacation and sonic capablities have collied with pool walls, with resulting injury and even death.

While there has been increased success in captive breeding, the bottlenose dolphin has not yet achieved self-sustaining status. According to 1993 federal records, captive born Turisops represent about 30% of those in captivity, yet more than half of those reported born in captivity have died. Therefore, captive breeding cannot be accurately assessed unless facilities are required to report stillbirths and infant mortalites. Industry officials have conceded that sucessful captive breedng origrans would still require additional captures from the wild.

The argument that aquariums must be maintained to serve the public interest is without merit. The public has clearly demonstrated its interest in free-living marine mammals. It was largely because of public ourcry over commercial whaling, Canadian harp seal hunts, and the tuna-dolphins connection that the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed in 1972. Efforts to save "Humphrey" the wayward humpback whale and the three gray whales trapped in Alaskan ice proceeed despite the fact that individuals of these species have never been exhibited in display facilities.

Aquariums can and do provide valuable educational opportunities without confining dolphins and other cetaceans. Many existing and proposed facilites have decided not to exhibit any cetacean species. Marine mammal species. Marine mammal authority Stephen Leatherwood stated, "WE as a culture may soon decide that marine zoological parks and aquariums are outmoded, that the kind of education presented in them can be offered by other means. Considering the many human pressures on the wild environment today, the additional stress of capturing animals from the wild for display may no longer be tolerable!

starveddolphin

- Starved Dolphin!

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins

Turisops Truncatus

Habitat: Tropical and temperate waters world-wide; mainly coastal but also offshore.

Range: Home and seasonal, 25-50 miles.

Diet: Fish, squid, shrimp.

Communication: "Signature whistles" to specific members, clicks, body language and sonar.

Gestation: 12 (twelve) months.

Longevity: Maximum believed about 50 years.

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