Τετάρτη, 6 Αυγούστου 2014

Do dolphinariums fulfill a valid educational role?



Thousands of whales and dolphins (known collectively as cetacea) are held in hundreds of zoos and dolphinaria across the world. An unsustainable industry, animals are still taken from the wild to stock a growing number of captive facilities. Deprived of their freedom and choice in an alien environment, captive whales and dolphins are usually trained to perform unnatural behaviour or interact with people in swim-with or petting activities. The number of dolphins bred in captivity does not replace the number that die. They suffer from high mortality rates, low breeding success and often endure physical and psychological disorders. Cetacea are frequently captured from the wild and sold into captivity. The methods of capture, and subsequent transport, can be extremely cruel and some animals die of shock or injury in the process.

The dolphin's toothy grin masks its suffering and contributes to the myth that dolphins in theme parks enjoy a happy life. In truth, dolphins cannot move their facial muscles to communicate inner feelings like humans can. Visitors don't always realise that the much promoted dolphin "smile" does not reflect of their emotional state. It is simply the shape of their mouths. Dolphins appear to smile even while injured or seriously ill. The smile is a feature of a dolphin's anatomy unrelated to its health or emotional state. By withholding food, some trainers coerce dolphins into repetitive and unnatural behaviours, performing "tricks" for the public. Hunger forces the dolphins to ignore their most basic natural instincts. They are even trained to beach themselves, despite the danger of doing so. Dolphins' bodies are adapted to the aquatic environment. When dolphins beach themselves in the wild, they do so because they are sick, disoriented, injured or otherwise in some kind of distress. Many of the beached animals die from the resulting pressure and damage to their internal organs. A captive dolphin that lifts itself out of the water and onto a platform or stage has been trained to beach itself on command. The discomfort to the animal can be great and permanent injury is only avoided by the trainer recalling the animal to the water in time.  

Many dolphinariums claim that they are playing an important role in educating people to appreciate the marine environment, and in fact, some regulatory bodies require dolphinariums to demonstrate an "educational value" to their displays. Whale and Dolphin Conservation believes that marine parks significantly distort the public's understanding of the marine environment. Educational messages take second place to the whale and dolphin performances, where the "jumping" and "splashing" are the main feature. Any educational aspects are lost amidst the glamour and excitement. Similarly, the complex nature of the lives of whales and dolphins cannot possibly be demonstrated in a tank. 

Some marine parks also distort the real truth behind captivity by using different words. For example, whales and dolphins are "acquired" rather than "captured"; captives do not live in tanks, they live in "controlled environments". Such terminology only serves to distract the visitor's eye the reality of tanks and repetitive daily routines. As Ric O'Barry says, "whenever a dolphinarium masks itself as a place of conservation, research or education, it raises a red flag for me. Those terms just green-wash dolphin shows as some kind of conservation effort, which it is not. It is a business. If you want to go see the Grand Canyon, you don’t do it in your home town, you get in a car and drive to see the Grand Canyon. You don’t need dolphins in captivity to teach about dolphins. It actually has a reverse effect and desensitises children to the very real plight of dolphins and conservation around the world. Dolphin shows only serve to perpetuate our utilitarian view of nature. It promotes bad education". 

It is easier now than it ever has been to see whales and dolphins in the wild. This experience cannot be improved upon for excitement and education. Imagine going out on a trip as a child. You will learn about whales and dolphins in their natural habitat and you will see their natural behaviour. You will also learn about the boat, about the ocean and the other creatures which live in it. The experience will teach you that, as human, you cannot and should not control or tame everything: an important lesson in conservation.
 
SERIFOS AIR AND SEA



Sources: 
- Arguments against captivity (Why keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is cruel): http://www.wdcs.org/submissions_bin/captivityagn.pdf

 

More: 
- Frequently Asked Questions for Captivity: http://us.whales.org/faqs/captivity
- Evidence Supports the Anti-Captivity Position: cetaceaninspiration.wordpress.com (Fb)


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