Dolphin Times: Issue 2

This issue will explain to you the differences of dolphins in captivity and in the wild, as well as connections of dolphin captivity and slavery. At the end, there will be an update on the latest dolphin news.  If you have any concerns, suggestions for the next issue or private comments, please email me at


Dolphins in the wild:

  • Have large home ranges (e.g. orcas can dive as deep as 60m and travel as far as 160km in a day and bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Cornwall, UK, have been recorded travelling up to 1076km in 20 days.Are almost always in motion, even when resting and spend less than 20% of their time at the water’s surface.
  • Orcas and Dall’s porpoise are two of the fastest animals in the sea (Dall’s porpoises can reach swimming speeds of up to 35mph).
  • Live in highly complex societies; with some individuals holding key roles within a specific group (e.g. communicator with other pods, nursing).
  • Choose to form strong, long-lasting social bonds with certain other members of their pod.
  • Are intelligent and can demonstrate problem solving and abstract concept formation, e.g.. utilise tools – female bottlenose dolphins in Australia have learned to use natural sponges to protect their beaks while foraging among sea urchins on the sea bed.
  • Are altruistic, some species have been witnessed helping other members of their pod, other species and even humans in trouble. They are self-aware and display highly responsive behavior.
  • Have culture i.e. they teach and learn traditions (e.g. Patagonian orcas partially strand themselves to catch sea-lions).
  • Demonstrate a high degree of vocal adaptability e.g. orcas in different parts of the world
  • have completely different dialects from one another.
  • Live up to 90 years (female orcas) and 60 years (male orcas), and average life span is 40-50 years.

Dolphins in captivity:

  • Are separated from their natural habitat and enclosed in a totally alien environment.
  • Have to undergo medication and fertility control.
  • Aquatic Mammals 2005, 31 (3) lists 199 facilities worldwide. More have established since then.
  • Have to put up with an artificial diet, unusual noise, strange tastes in water, and the proximity of people and other unfamiliar captive animals.
  • No longer have free will to choose social bonds.
  • May suffer aggression from other pool mates more dominant than them.
  • Are sometimes kept on their own (some in hotel swimming pools), e.g. four orcas are currently held in captivity on their own.
  • Suffer from stress, reduced life expectancy and breeding problems.
  • The Marine Mammal Inventory Report, maintained by the U.S. government, lists a variety of causes of death including drowning, ingestion of foreign objects and aggression from pool mates
  • Don’t live past the age of 50 and average life span is 30 years.

To demonstrate these differences, please watch the following 6 minute video that I made about this (warning…first two minutes is sad):


For marine parks like SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium, they obviously need to have dolphins (including Orcas and Pilot Whales). How do they get these dolphins? They go out, take them away from their families, and enslave them in an unrealistic concrete (or other man-made material) barrier. They then work those dolphins to perform for us until they die. Then, they go and get new ones. In Taiji (aka…Hell on Earth), dolphins are selected by trainers (playing the part of Hitler), particularly young female bottlenose dolphins. The ones that aren’t selected are brutally, barbarically, and mercilessly slaughtered.

How does this relate to slavery? I think the reasons are pretty obvious…We are taking intelligent beings (more intelligent than us…for more click here and here), treating them as property and buying them for money to…make money? When slavery was still going on in the U.S, wasn’t that what was happening? Our country took African Americans away from their home, and bought them to make more money off of cotton, tobacco, and other crops. After a while, half the country believed that was wrong, and eventually it was banished…or so we thought. True, dolphins aren’t degraded to working on a farm all day to make money, but they’re degraded as circus clowns all day to make money. If we think that 18-19th century slavery is wrong, then why is enslaving animals more intelligent than us right?  As we’ve all recently heard, PETA has sued SeaWorld for violating the Thirteenth Amendment, which states, ” Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The term slave is defined as “An individual who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them against their will.” Let’s see, there’s nothing in either of those two terms that says this applies only to man, and even if it did, that should be changed. Are dolphins “legal property” and are they “forced to obey their owners?” Hmm…sounds like it.

In the Holocaust, Hitler posted propaganda that Hebrews were why there was problems in the world, when in reality, it was them and others like him that were causing the problems. In Taiji, the fisherman say that they’re slaughtering dolphins “for pest control.” According to them (and what they said in The Cove), dolphins are the reason that fish levels are dropping; but in reality, humans (and mostly Asia) are the reason that fish levels are declining. Furthermore, in the Holocaust, Hitler wanted to “make the world perfect.” He did this by taking the Hebrews that “did not fit his conditions,” meaning that if their eyes aren’t blue, their hair isn’t blond, they weren’t in shape, or if they had a disease, to concentration camps. In Taiji, we can look at this in two different, but connected, directions. For example, dolphins that aren’t selected by the trainers that come to capture them (they have even been seen assisting in the drive) are slaughtered viciously. The reasons they are not selected is because trainers do not see them “fit for entertainment.” Hebrews that Hitler found unfit were slaughtered in various ways as well.  In contrast,  those trainers that come and do capture dolphins and take them back to their marine parks are doing the exact opposite.

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking, That’s good isn’t it? Or more commonly, but then they’re saving the dolphins, right?  The answer to both of those questions is no.  The only reason those dolphins usually cooperate in captivity is, WHAT ELSE ARE THEY GOING TO DO? That is their only form, and I find it to be a fake form, of fun. Like many things, fun is not something that people can make. Fun is something that, and I know this sounds cliche, but it’s felt from the heart. People ask me at school, “What’s the difference between a dolphin jumping at SeaWorld and a dolphin jumping in the wild? There is none, right?” Well, if you look at the videos below, you can see that the jump performed by the Orca at SeaWorld is perfect. A perfect flight, perfect arc, perfect height, perfect splash, and a perfect dive. In the wild, it’s not perfect. Why? Because it doesn’t have to be; they don’t care in the wild whether the jump is perfect or not. So, who’s the luckier dolphin? Would you rather spend your whole life doing stupid tricks that have no purpose whatsoever or die? The one that’s imprisoned for life, or the one that’s slaughtered? Honestly, however painful that death may be, I would rather die free than die a slave.

Jump in Captivity: Watch how everything is perfect in the jumps.

Jump in the Wild: Watch how everything is more relaxed and careless in the jumps


Aren’t dolphins in captivity educational?
The primary justification for the public display of marine mammals is the educational benefit of these exhibits. Whale and dolphin displays significantly distort the public’s understanding of the marine environment. Educational messages often take second place to the whale and dolphin performance, which are the main feature of dolphinariums. The tricks that are displayed are exaggerated variations of natural behaviors and do little to further the public’s knowledge of cetaceans and their habitats. In addition, the complex nature of the lives of whales and dolphins cannot possibly be illustrated with reference to animals in a tank. Educational materials offered by captive facilities often blatantly omit facts about a species’ unique social structure and acoustic repertoire, as well as its remarkable extended families and natural tendency to range freely over vast areas. Visitors to captive facilities may be subject to mis-information, and leave with a distorted perception of cetaceans and their marine environments.

Isn’t captivity safer than life in the wild?
Whales and dolphins have evolved over millions of years to live in the ocean; it is their natural habitat. The way to solve hunting, pollution and other threats is to tackle the point sources of these problems, not to take these animals out of the seas.

The idea that dolphins (or any wildlife) must be saved from the threats and challenges they face in the wild by being placed in artificial settings is a terrible conservation message. The fact is that while life IS tough for these animals in the open ocean, it is also complex, challenging, engrossing, and beautiful. It is never going to be a solution to the growing number of threats dolphins face to try to preserve them in the ‘ark’ of dolphinariums (and no legitimate zoological facilities promote the ‘ark’ theory for zoos and aquariums anymore either). If people think that captivity IS a solution to habitat threats the focus is then taken away from reducing the threats to wild dolphins. This potentially means that wild dolphins don’t stand a chance of long-term survival! If people believe that it’s better for dolphins to be in a cage rather than in the wide open ocean, this only emphasizes how dolphinariums miseducate the public.

Captive-born dolphins are happy in captivity, aren’t they?
Another argument suggests that dolphins born in captivity are domesticated. However, dolphins are STILL wild animals, even if they have been kept in captivity for some time, even if they were born there.

Animals born in captivity are domesticated, so they’re not wild anymore?
Domestication is the modification of an animal over a significant number of generations through selective breeding in captivity. Certain characteristics are either enhanced or eliminated and the animals become adapted to a significant extent to a life intimately associated with man (i.e. dogs).

Whales and dolphins are wild animals. In captivity they may develop strong social bonds with their human trainers however this is correctly known as being socialized or habituated, not domesticated. Domestication happens over a very long period of evolutionary time, while an individual is habituated during its lifetime. Breeding in dolphinariums is rare, let alone breeding that occurs between individuals with the most docile personalities or smallest number or size of teeth. Dolphins are tamed, they are not domesticated.

Wouldn’t dolphins in “open” sea pens escape if they were not happy?
This can be addressed on two different levels: Dolphins that have been taken from the wild have been removed from their social group and natural habitat. Finding themselves in an alien environment far from their natural home, these animals may fear venturing out into an unknown sea, away from the facility that provides them with food. Young animals are often selected who may not have learnt all the skills needed to survive in the wild. The captives are also habituated to human company – this does not mean to say that they are happy.

It is also important to remember that these individual dolphins have been conditioned. If you have been to a show- have you ever noticed that the performing animals are fed fish each time they complete a routine or a trick? They may be performing so that they receive fish or other rewards.

 Dolphin’s smile, so they must be happy…
Dolphins have a natural smile. They are born this way (i.e. it’s physiological). Similarly, they do not frown when upset, distressed or angry. Marine biologists study the behaviour of dolphins, using an ethogram (a known repertoire of behaviours used for particular purposes e.g. tail slapping is known to be a warning). It is by studying the behaviour of an animal that we can begin to tell how it may be feeling. Dolphins or whales that swim listlessly around their tanks, using the same route are showing stereotypical behaviour. This is similar to when you see polar bears or elephants rocking back and forth in a zoo. These animals may be suffering a great deal of mental distress. In fact, many dolphins have to take a form of stress medication, Tagumet, because of these conditions.

Aren’t whales and dolphins happy if they do tricks and eat fish?
People always think that if the dolphins were unhappy they would not ‘work’ or would refuse to eat. It is true that some dolphins survive better than others, much like humans do in difficult circumstances. Some dolphins will just get on with their training and shows – and as I said before, what else is there for them to do in these boring bare tanks?

for more questions, please visit my FAQ page.


This week in Taiji, so far the 30th of October and the 3rd of November are the only days that the dolphin murderers have slaughtered dolphins. The other 4 days, the dolphins either escapes, were nowhere to be found, or the boats could not go out at all. For more updates from Taiji, please visit here.

The deaths of five more dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico was found out to be caused by a bacteria called Brucella, according to CNN. One scientist, Teri Rowles, states that they may be infected due to “environmental stress” which could possibly be related to the BP oil spill. The other explanation that the scientists believe is that the bacteria itself has changed, causing disease. For more on this, click here.


One response to “Dolphin Times: Issue 2

  1. well said!

    Just one minor correction (?). As far as I know dolphins have no sense of smell (in air), but … they can feel different tastes, and in water its more like smells [you don’t need to touch object for receiving this sort of info]. Also their extremely different world-of-sound nearly collapses in captivity …..

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