Wild dolphins vs. Dolphinariums

Stories of boys riding dolphins date all the way back to Roman times, and even today scientific researchers keep in captivity wild dolphins they’re studying.

Humans, looking to know more and more about nature, have been capturing wild dolphins and even breeding them for long time.

Dolphins, with their charmingly playful personality, breathtaking acrobatic ability, and affinity for humans, are among the most sought-after animals for viewing by humans. Is it, therefore, any wonder that dolphins are held in captivity to entertain people?

With dolphin intelligence and unique abilities, it’s also not surprising that they have been used as study subjects by those seeking to unlock the mysteries of intelligence and communication. There’s no denying that these studies and the opportunities for seeing dolphins up close at dolphinariums have added to the total of human knowledge as well as the love of many for dolphins.

But there’s a dark side to dolphins in captivity. Because of methods used to capture wild dolphins, pod populations may be damaged, sometimes beyond repair. And because of sometimes-lax laws regulating their treatment, individual dolphins have occasionally been abused and mistreated.

Capturing Wild Dolphins

One of the tragedies of captive dolphins is how they’re captured to begin with. Most dolphin hunters seek out the more populous pods. Dolphins are herded by helicopter and, sometimes, explosives, into an area where a boat may capture one or more by net.

For a while in the 60s, hunters of cetaceans were capturing many individuals from the same pod, possibly leading to the extinction of entire families. Today, they are legally barred from doing this.

Still, capture is hard on any dolphin. They’re plucked from the sea and family, pulled into the harsh air where water doesn’t cushion their bodies. They have trouble breathing. Their skin must be rubbed with lotion and doused with water so that it doesn’t dry out. And then they’re transported for hours, unable to move, to a tank filled with chlorinated water instead of the sea water they’re used to. The remarkable thing is that they usually survive the transport at all.

Dolphins in Dolphinariums

Yet dolphins, for the most part, seem reasonably resilient to captivity. They like humans, and adapt well to being around them and even to being trained. Bottlenose dolphins are especially popular due to their intelligence and mimicry of human language.

Around five thousand dolphins and other cetaceans have been trapped for the purposes of display, research, or military use over the last three decades. After some rather egregious abuses that led to dolphin deaths, the US and Canadian government now have strict controls over who may capture and own a dolphin.

About three quarters of dolphins captured are female, and most captured dolphins overall are immature. Though they seem to do well in captivity, actually they have a much shorter average lifespan expectancy of dolphins in the wild.

And though the laws covering US and European dolphinariums are quite strict and detailed, this has not always been the case; in many countries today, lax regulations have led to filthy, inadequate tanks, sick dolphins, and the death and suffering of individual dolphins. This is nothing less than a crime

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