“A dolphin’s smile is nature’s greatest deception. It creates the illusion that they’re always happy.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
If the idea of spending time amid sunny skies, warm temperatures and a vast, blue sea is on your agenda for spring break, we’re in, too! Actually, so are wild dolphins, who spend their days navigating these waters, caring for their young, foraging for food and socializing with other pod members. Sadly, this isn’t the case for their captive counterparts. Despite the dolphins’ natural curvature of their jawline, life in a tank is nothing to smile about.
This spring break, we’re encouraging everyone to consider cruelty-free alternatives to dolphin shows, including swim-with-dolphin encounters. Sadly, the latter are promoted relentlessly by the cruise ship industry, who package these as part of their shore excursions. Swim-with-dolphin programs place extraordinary amounts of stress on captive dolphins, who may interact with over 50 tourists a day. In preparation for these programs, dolphins undergo a grueling training regimen, including: food deprivation where mammals are kept hungry so they will perform on demand, routine medicating to combat the physical and psychological stresses placed upon them and other learned behaviors designed to force their submission. Many die prematurely due to illness or stress-related disorders as captive dolphins don’t get vacations.
We have received many inquiries about facilities that keep dolphins for interactive displays and programs, yet advertise themselves as “sanctuaries.” The short answer is: it ISN’T complicated, but information distributed by such places can be very misleading. Click here to learn about what is, and what isn’t a sanctuary.
Many opportunities exist to experience dolphins and other whales in their wild marine environments, including participating in licensed dolphin/whale watching trips. If you’re interested in learning ways you can fine-tune your daily habits to help protect our planet, please read about these microsteps here:
Even if activism isn’t your thing, becoming knowledgeable about something leads to better decision-making. Your time and money is valuable, as is your voice, so making wise decisions is beneficial all-around, and for all concerned!
Featured image: Wild and free bottlenose dolphin, Florida. Credit: Gwen McKenna