The days of captive animal shows are coming to an end, thankfully, I think. Now, I get it, that in the old days, it was the only way to see such animals, people were curious, and money was to be made. But over time, society has made progress in some things like this, and it’s much more fun–not to mention much kinder– to watch animals be themselves in the wild, and we can do so today, thanks to videos and even live web-cams! So let’s talk about dolphins now, because many of them are still captive in shows.
An average dolphin lives for 20-30 years, and a captive one only half that time, if not less. But since the show must go on, the creatures just get replaced with new ones. The audience rarely has a clue what the poor things go through, and that could be because of common dolphin show myths…. Below are 8 reasons to never see a Dolphin show again and Should Dolphin shows be banned:
1. Dolphins are smiling, and it means they’re happy.
This statement applies mostly to common bottlenose dolphins that usually take part in entertainment shows. They’re chosen as performers because of their friendly appearance and ability to learn complex tricks.
However, their “smile” is nothing more than the anatomical structure of their jaws, which creates the illusion of a constantly cheerful and happy creature. In fact, dolphins don’t really enjoy entertaining the audience. They “smile” at all times – when they’re satisfied with life and when they can hardly bear it. They just can’t physically look miserable.
2. Dolphins are friendly and squint for joy.
Various chemicals like chlorine are used to disinfect the pools. When they get into the water and interact with waste products of marine creatures, they turn into compounds that poison animals, damage their immunity, and lead to different illnesses. If the concentration of chlorine is too high, the water irritates the eyes of dolphins and other tank creatures.
As a result, animals literally go blind. That’s why captive dolphins often swim with their eyes closed, and it sometimes seems like they’re just squinting for joy. They also tend to float as close to the surface as they can to try and save themselves from the painful sting. What’s worse, those cleaning agents can also damage the animal’s skin to the point where it gets covered in wounds.
3. They swim in spacious pools.
In the wild, dolphins and orcas swim about 100 miles (160 km) a day and dive to great depths. No matter how large the tanks might seem to us, captive animals get access to less than 1% of the space they normally require for a healthy existence in their natural environment. And their small pools don’t give these inquisitive and intelligent creatures the stimulation they need.
As a result, they’re forced to swim in endless circles around the tank. These repetitive meaningless movements and “rituals” cause different psychological and behavioral problems in dolphins. Some of them start chewing on steel gates, others get aggressive towards trainers or other dolphins, and they often just hurt themselves because they have to get that repressed energy out.
4. Dolphins are calm and non-aggressive.
You must’ve heard that dolphins move using echolocation. That is, they use sound to see underwater where visibility isn’t exactly the best. A dolphin can make clicking sounds, those soundwaves travel to an object, bounce off of it, and travel back to the dolphin with information about the object’s size, distance, and direction.
In those small pools, though, all these sounds bouncing off the walls can seriously affect an animal’s psyche. Add loud music, shouting, and applause (as well as a combination of other things dolphins go through in captivity), and you’ll see why they’re under constant stress.
Dolphins are wild animals, so their behavior can be unpredictable, especially when it’s being changed for the worse due to an unfit environment. And it’s not just them or the trainers that are at risk – the audience is too! That’s why performance dolphins are often given antidepressants and tranquilizers, according to former sea animal park employees. But even that doesn’t always stop them from attacking.
5. They’re smart mammals, so they easily perform tricks.
Long-term scientific studies have confirmed that the dolphin brain really has a very complex structure. Neuroscientist and animal behavior expert Dr. Lori Marino explains that even though their brains are completely different from those of primates, dolphins have about the same amazing cognitive abilities and self-knowledge. Their intelligence and complex behavior is not a myth.
However, performing tricks in shows is based on food motivation. Typically, daily food intake is divided into several portions, depending on the number of performances or training sessions. So, animals are always kept slightly hungry before the session on purpose. They understand that if they don’t work hard, they won’t get any food.
By the way, its quality often leaves much to be desired. In their natural environment, dolphins never eat dead fish, and that’s what they’re mostly fed at aquariums. Getting used to eating frozen fish is also part of the training process.
6. Dolphins feel at home in aquariums and oceanariums.
In the wild, dolphins spend most of their time and energy searching for and maintaining relationships. In 2009, scientists at the University of Nevada did a whole study on social behavior in bottlenose dolphins. They concluded that these mammals live in large groups or families.
The social status of this or that dolphin depends on its social group, and it never remains the same. And you can see any dolphin in captivity jump out of the water in a beautiful breath-taking feat. But in the wild, only the leader of the group can do this trick to indicate that it’s time to start traveling.
So, socialization is an integral and complex part of a fulfilling life for them. Keeping dolphins in an enclosed area with several other animals is like putting a person in a room with strangers and forcing them to interact. They don’t have the freedom they’re used to when it comes to choosing who to build a relationship with. All of this is just way too much mental strain for a dolphin.
Actually, the trainer who worked on the set of the popular TV series Flipper realized the risks his “students” have to face in captivity after one of them died of stress right in his arms. Such cases of former trainers having a change of heart and standing up to protect animals and oppose their capture and commercial exploitation are pretty common. They’re often the #1 source of what really goes on behind the scenes.
7. Traveling dolphin shows are a great way to explore wildlife.
As you already know, not even the largest tank in the world is able to recreate these animals’ natural habitats. In the case of traveling shows, they’re obviously inducing even more stress and harm to dolphins. With each move, they spend 5 to 8 days in dark tanks not much larger than the animal itself. And they’re often not alone in such tiny tanks, but share them with 1 or 2 other dolphins.
What’s interesting is that not only the dolphins are at risk when it comes to traveling shows! The microflora of animals in captivity is especially dangerous for humans, according to a 2014 study by marine mammal pathologists at the Georgia Aquarium. Bacteria and pathogens can easily be transmitted through touch, like when you’re taking a picture with a dolphin, or even through contaminated water they splash on the audience.
8. Dolphins are healers.
Dolphin therapy often includes swimming with these animals, and it’s sometimes coupled with different educational exercises. Such a program is designed for at least several sessions. Dolphinariums are actively engaged in the promotion and advertising of this service, especially for children in need of treatment.
In fact, it’s so popular that people often have to sign up six months in advance! Studies on the benefits of dolphin therapy usually don’t take into account that the effect of it, if any, is short-lived and kind of like a placebo. Most often, it’s about the excitement caused by the trip, change of setting, extra attention and expectations, and the illusion of that dolphin “smile” and benevolence.
One of the counterarguments against dolphin therapy is the frequent cases of people being attacked by dolphins during such sessions. There are all kinds of documentaries that reveal the dark secrets of the dolphin business, like the Oscar-winning film The Cove to name one.
However, even after watching them, some people claim that if the animals are set free, they’ll soon die in the wild. Well, the risks are real, but captive dolphins can be re-introduced to their natural environment, although the adaptation process is difficult and requires a lot of effort and time. But that’ll never happen if people continue to buy tickets and go to dolphin shows, thinking that it’s all family-friendly fun!
What do you think: should dolphin shows be legally banned? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments! If you learned something new today, then remember to rate this article “8 Reasons Why should dolphin shows be banned!” and share it with your friends!
Credit: Bright Side