Δευτέρα, 14 Απριλίου 2014

Debunking Captivity



Maddalena Bearzi at dolphinbiology.org
nationalgeographic.com 
Marine parks and delphinaria tend to play the "research card" every time there is a question about why we keep dolphins in captivity. It’s true that, in the past, some captivity studies on dolphins have helped fuel our basic understanding of these animals; an understanding that researchers of that era could not have obtained at sea because of technical and logistical obstacles. But the world and science have changed and we now have the technology and means to more effectively study dolphins in their own habitats.

Generally speaking, because of the artificial settings, research in captivity provides little knowledge that can be applied to the protection and management of these species at sea. In fact, this kind of research can even be misleading. Many published studies on captive animals focus on training techniques and improvement of husbandry practices, which have no relevance to dolphins living in the wild. For example: captive studies on dolphin diseases have failed to predict outbreaks of viruses in wild populations that may often cause mass mortality. 

Further, only a small fraction of the money coming from tickets sold at facilities that keep dolphins in captivity is used for research (if at all) and less than ten percent of delphinaria or zoos are involved in research conservation programs, either in situ or in the wild. 

The most common claim of many delphinaria is that they provide great educational opportunities, which they contend may lead to public concern for dolphin conservation. But this just isn’t true. The big difference in opinion here rests on one’s definition of educational value. Just think about taking a child to a marine park. This is not an educational experience because the child doesn’t see or understand what these animals are really about. Jumping and splashing on command or catching a fish from the hand of a trainer during a performance is just stereotyped, clown-esque behavior that shows little if anything of these animals' everyday life. Deprived of their natural space and social structures, dolphins change. Captive dolphins have nothing in common with those I have come to know in the wild.

Instead, think about taking your child out to sea on a reputable whale-watching trip. Even in a single trip out on the ocean, a child might have the chance to glimpse into the real life of wild dolphins. At sea, one can better understand who dolphins are and how they behave in company of their own "families". At sea, one will see why we need to protect not just them, but also the environment in which they live. These are truly important lessons in conservation for a child.

A second claim is that by keeping them in a tank we are saving them from pollution and overfishing, even extinction, and that captive breeding programs are for conservation motives. Removing dolphins from their natural habitat to live in tanks will not address environmental issues. And the statement that these programs help endangered or threatened species is faulty, especially considering that the endangered species are generally not the ones being kept in captivity. Captive breeding programs do provide one thing: a constant supply of dolphins for display and human amusement.

There are many other reasons why keeping these animals in captivity is wrong, such as the poor, often terrible, conditions in which dolphins are still kept in many facilities worldwide, and the high illness and mortality rate of captive animals. No state of the art captive aquarium or marine park can ever meet the complex physiological and psychological needs of a dolphin, or most other animals, for that matter. And we have not yet mentioned the number of individuals killed in the process of being captured, and the stress these animals go through when separated from their companions and social networks. 

Dolphins are large-brained, cognitive animals. They live in complex societies in the open ocean and they have emotions and personalities. And it’s time we recognize that the only, true reason we still keep these magnificent, large brained and socially complex creatures captive is for our entertainment; entertainment for the motive of making money, and lots of it.


Posted in Ocean Views, on April 8, 2014 at nationalgeographic.com


Maddalena Bearzi Ph.D has studied the ecology and conservation of marine mammals for over twenty-five years. She is President and Co-founder of the Ocean Conservation Society, and Co-author of Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins (Harvard University Press, 2008). She also works as a photo-journalist and blogger for several publications. Her most recent book is Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist (Chicago University Press, 2012)  
 

Μετάφραση στα Ελληνικά at http://filikaki-blog.blogspot.gr/2014/04/debunking-captivity_15.html


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