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Photo: World Animal Protection

Study blasts dolphin and whale attractions

Captive whales, dolphins and other marine mammals should not be suffering as tourist attractions, a new report says.

Thousands of captive whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are still suffering as tourist attractions in 2019, a new report by the international NGO World Animal Protection says.

The new report, Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity, was presented to the travel trade at ITB Berlin earlier this month.

Co-produced with the Animal Welfare Institute, it details, with scientific evidence, why destinations should not force these wild animals to live in artificial environments.

Wild cetaceans – whales and dolphins – travel 60-160 kilometres every day, achieving speeds of 50 kilometres per hour and diving up to a hundred metres deep, the report says.

But even in the largest facilities, they have less than 0.0001% (one millionth) of their natural habitat range.

Extreme stress
Captive marine mammals suffer from a range of health problems including extreme stress, neurotic behaviour and abnormal levels of aggression.

Bottlenose dolphins are six times more likely to die immediately after capture from the wild and transfer between facilities. Mortality rates for captive orcas have improved over the years but still do not match healthy populations in the wild.

The number of ocean theme parks is rising particularly in China, from 39 of them in 2015 to 76 in early 2019.

World Animal Protection describes its report as “a damning portrait of the behind-the-scenes cruelty of zoos, aquariums and marine theme parks that trade and exploit captive marine mammals for entertainment”.

It has produced a short video called ‘Why keeping dolphins and whales in captivity is cruel’, which can be seen here.

“The life in captivity for marine mammals such as dolphins is so contrary to their natural lives. A life in captivity is simply no life at all,” says Nick Stewart, the organisation’s global head of campaigns.

“Tourists and the global travel industry are a key source of demand for existing and new captive marine mammal facilities, which is why we chose to launch the report at one of the world’s biggest travel shows.”

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