I've always been a supporter of AZA-accredited zoos, but I draw the line when it comes to aquariums. Especially if those aquariums keep cetaceans such as whales, dolphins, or porpoises for show.
To put it bluntly, there is simply NO possible way to keep a happy dolphin in captivity. We've been trying to do so since the 1860s, with only minor advancements in recent years.
Thus far, absolutely no scientific evidence has shown that keeping such animals in captivity can contribute to conservation, firstly because they rarely breed in captivity, and secondly because captive-born whales and dolphins cannot be released into the wild.
Supporters still argue that we can learn a lot about wild dolphins by studying captive ones. But it's rare for captive dolphins to act in captivity as they would in the wild. This is because in the wild, many species of dolphin spend their entire day patrolling hundreds of miles of open ocean, interacting with entire family units and bonding by co-operative play and hunting behaviors. These behaviors are impossible to reproduce in captivity on account of one simple fact: We cannot re-create their natural habitats.
As a result of this, many whales and dolphins grow increasingly bored over time, and, like many zoo animals, will eventually take up repetitive habits known as stereotypes. Stereotyping among cetaceans differs from that of other zoo animals. While land animals like bears and big cats will pace, bob their heads, and gnaw incessantly to keep themselves from going insane, dolphins and whales have actually been known to resort to self-mutilation and even suicide.
Sea World and other 'show' parks claim that they keep their dolphins happy by teaching them to perform tricks for eager crowds. But the fact of the matter is, taking commands from hand signals several dozen times a week loses its appeal very quickly for these intelligent animals.
Unable to connect within their natural ocean habitats also makes social interactions between captive cetaceans tricky business. Physical interactions between captive whales and dolphins are rare, and the offspring usually die young. Those that survive have been known to develop odd physical traits such as bent dorsal fins as a direct result of growing up in inadequate conditions.
In conclusion, there is little (if any) justification for keeping such animals in captivity.
Please do these creatures a favor and REFUSE TO SUPPORT ESTABLISHMENTS WHICH KEEP THEM.
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