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Dying to entertain you

Apr 29, 2008

Captive dolphins, forced to perfom tricks that risk injury

A performing dolphin called Sharky has died during a live stunt show at Discovery Cove, in Orlando, Florida, owned by brewery and theme park operator Anheuser-Busch.

Sharky – a 30-year-old female bottlenose – collided mid-air with another dolphin while leaping out of the water during a show.

In what WSPA considers to be a sad reminder of the unacceptable cruelty inherent to keeping dolphins in captivity, Sharky suffered head injuries and died soon afterwards.

The other dolphin (a 13-year-old male called Tyler) is currently under veterinary supervision.

A life of exploitation

Sharky’s accidental death while performing tricks marked the end of a degraded life, deprived of even the most basic natural instincts and trained – using methods that often include food deprivation – to perform unnatural and dangerous tricks.

The majority of dolphins in captivity are captured violently from the wild. Scientists estimate that for every wild dolphin taken captive, another is injured or killed in the process. Claims that these facilities have conservation interests at heart do not change the fact that this is cruel and exploitative industry.

This particular SeaWorld facility currently holds 67 captive bred and 10 wild caught dolphins. At this time, WSPA has been unable to determine whether Sharky was captive bred or wild caught. We do know that most dolphins in US facilities are now bred in captivity and that it has been around 20 years since US facilities have participated in capture of dolphins from the wild.

Intelligent creatures

It is no secret that the intelligence of dolphins is on par with that of the great apes. It is clear that no captive facility – not even the world-famous tourist destination that is SeaWorld – can adequately provide for dolphins’ complex social and behavioral needs, or recreate their vast ocean habitat.

Claire Bass, Marine Mammals Programs Manager for WSPA said: “The World Society for the Protection of Animals urges people who care for the welfare of these remarkable animals to help keep dolphins wild – never visit them in captivity. Tourist cash is what keeps attractions like this in business.”

For tips on animal-friendly holidays, please visit our WSPA USA site: www.compassionatetravel.org

Read more about the plight of captive dolphins >>

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A pod of dolphins in the wild