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Captive Dolphins

"Hi folks! We know that you, and especially your children, love to visit marine parks and watch dolphins do Ďtricks.í You might think captive dolphins are fun loving ambassadors, but we want you to think about what you donít see. Imagine that you were a dolphin. How would you feel if your home was invaded, your family torn apart, and your brother, sister, mother, or father transported to an alien world, never to be seen again?"
"Thatís right, Nina. The "ambassadors" served their purpose long ago. The first dolphin show opened in St. Augustine, Florida in 1938. Since then, thousands of dolphins have been captured and trained. When they die, the captivity industry captures more.

"We want huwees to look behind the captive dolphinís smile. Nature gave us our smile, but it can deceive huwees about how we feel."
"Good idea, Mookeeo. Letís make that our theme about the inmates: Look behind the dolphinís smile."
"We also want you to know that most (not all) captive dolphins do not have the skills to survive in the wild. So, our goal is not to free all dolphins, but to expose deceptions in the captivity industry so that continued capture and trafficking in wild dolphins becomes illegal."
"Thatís right. Dolphins that cannot survive, like those born in captivity, should remain captive. But those born wild and free should remain wild and free."
"Huwees in the dolphin captivity business will tell you that they treat their dolphins humanely, that dolphins enjoy their performances, and try to convince you that Ďtheir dolphinsí are happy. Most huwees watch the spectacle of a dolphin show and believe it. But is it true? Marine parks tell you theyíre providing a humane service because their dolphins couldnít survive in the wild."
"Oh, really? Will somebody tell me who put those dolphins in jail in the first place? You donít think dolphins volunteered to come here, do you? That we leaped over land to live in barren, sterile tanks?"
"Even our writer fell for their story, especially at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, which claimed to represent the best interest of dolphins."
"So, whatís he know?"
"Well, we did call him an honorary dolphin."
"Yeah, but he ainít a real dolphin."
"Maybe not, but he did a lot of research about us in his book and he did discover that the Dolphin Research Center (DRC) participated in the dolphin slave trade too. DRC continually maintained denial until he backed them into a corner and they couldnít deny that the Marine Mammal Inventory Report published by NOAA proves that they Ďtransferredí a dolphin to Conneyland in Switzerland."
"Yeah, right. Conneyland combined a marine park with a disco. The dolphins were exposed to loud music and night lights, disturbing their normal communication and sleep patterns, and thatís supposed to be in the dolphinís best interest?"
"You know, in order to justify dolphin jails, the law requires all those marine parks and so called research organizations to educate huwees about dolphins, but they also miseducate with half-truths or outright lies."
"Yeah, right. Letís talk about how they Ďeducateí the public. How can spectators learn anything about the real nature of dolphins when captive dolphins are trained to perform unnatural behaviors? How can spectators become aware of preserving dolphins in nature, when the dolphins theyíre watching have been stolen from nature or were born in captivity and never saw the ocean?"
"Youíre right. They donít talk about how dolphins were captured. They might mention our physiology or our social nature, but they donít talk about how kidnapping affects the social structure of our pod. They talk about sonic senses, but they donít say theyíre rendered useless in a concrete tank."
"The captivity industry also doesnít want you to know that some dolphins that were born free and then captured, can be Ďuntrainedí to survive wild and free again. Ric OíBarry has done it. Heís on our link page."
"Thatís right. Now, let me continueÖMost huwees donít think about these issues. Huwees look at us from their perspective, not from ours. Huwees really think that we want to play with them because marine parks do such a good job convincing them that weíre their toys or playthings, perpetuating myths. Huwees donít think of us as wild and free."
"Youíre right, Nina. Thatís why they donít look beyond the concrete walls. They donít see the jail. They donít see the harassment, the kidnapping, tearing apart our communities, withholding fish to Ďtrainí us. They donít see any of that because they never think about our point of view. Thatís why their perception of dolphins and all other animals is so limited."
"The captivity industry doesnít want them to think about the price dolphins pay to entertain them. They donít want huwees to think about the differences in our quality of life either."
"Wild and free we roam the oceans straight and true
But swimming in circles inside a tank makes us blue.
We love to swim fast, up to forty miles a day
But tanks slow us down and keep us at bay.
We canít have a ball
When we run into a wall."
"No, no, no! Mookeeo, none of that corny poem stuff here! We got things to say."
"Thatís right, Mookeeo. If huwees want to read your dumb poems, they can buy the books. We have to set aside our fun loving dolphinalities and concentrate on the issues here."
"OK, OK! Donít be such a swee! All right, now letís think about the quality of life for dolphins. Iíll talk about wild and free. Doak, you talk about captivity."
"OK dude, letís get into it!"
"Wild and free, our only boundary is where the ocean meets the shore."
"In captivity, most concrete jail cells are less than 100 feet. So most of us swim around in boring circles all day."
"Wild and free, we only spend 10 to 20% of our time on the surface. We can hold our breath up to 20 minutes and dive more than 500 meters (1640 feet)."
"In captivity, weíre lucky if our tank or sea pen is 10 feet deep. Sometimes we get depressed and lie motionless on the surface inside a tank. Sometimes we get ulcers too, when weíre mistreated or we think about our pod, our loved ones, and the wild life we can no longer live."
"Wild and free, we have an ocean to explore, sights to behold, and fish to chase. We can feel the rhythms of the sea: the tides, the currents, and the sounds. Ah, the sounds!"
"In captivity, we live in chemically treated water or small restricted lagoons. Whatís there to explore in a concrete, barren tank or a shallow sea pen? Inside a tank, we canít hear the oceanís song, waves slapping the shore, the crooning of a humpback, the splash of a bird, and the popping of claws. We canít even use our sonar."
"Thatís right. We constantly scan the ocean with bursts of sound. Thatís how we Ďsee.í Weíre deprived of our symphony in the ocean. In captivity, the oceanís sounds are replaced with the noise of generators and water pumps, thatís not exactly music, you know. I wonder if huwees ever thought what it would be like to live in a world without music Ė no rock and roll to dance to, no classical to relax to, no jazz to tap their fingers toÖ"
In captivity, our sonic senses are severely restricted. We canít use it to chase live fish, cause weíre fed dead fish as food rewards. We canít use it to explore our underwater world, because there ainít much to explore in a barren, concrete tank. We canít use it to navigate, because we arenít going anywhere. Depriving us of using our sonic senses is like forcing a person to wear a blindfold for the rest of their life.
"Wild and free, we use our natural skills: our speed, our intelligence, our sonar, our ability to communicate and cooperate. We experience the thrill of catching and chasing live fish and we enjoy the taste of fresh fish."
"Captive, we have to do Ďtricksí to eat dead fish. Weíre dependent like slaves, not independent, wild and free."

Hungry and looking for a handout, Catollica, Italy
Copyright Helene O'Barry/Dolphin Project
"Boys, boys, boys, letís talk about the most important difference in captivity."
"Weíre getting there, Nina. Donít be so impatient."
"Then talk about the social relationships of our pod! Thatís where we find safety, love and companionship, especially between a dolphina and her baby."
"Donít tell them about it, Nina. If they want to know, they can find it in the book."
"I wasnít going to, Mookeeo." She sighs a deep dolphin sigh. "Dolphin mothers share a deep affection with their calves. Bottlenose calves swim closely with their mothers, ride in their laminar flow, and stay with their mothers as long as five years. Thatís whatís so cruel about capture, especially if a mother and calf are separated."
"Thatís true, but really any dolphin torn away from their pod is traumatized Ė and its not just the captured dolphin, the whole pod is traumatized. It ainít easy to lose your best friend, never to see them again."
"Letís talk about the captivity process, being transported thousands of miles to jail Ė concrete tanks called aquariums for the amusement of huwees."

Somebody tell me, what crime did those dolphins commit?"
"Good point, Doak. Cuba, Japan, Russia, and Mexico were the most prominent countries capturing dolphins for slaves."
"You mean until July 2003, when the Solomon Islands got into the act with a massive capture Ė 178 dolphins will never again feel all the joy of being a wild dolphinÖ
"Even huwees were shocked to discover the enormity of that illegal capture - equal to 20 percent of the entire worldwide population of captive dolphins. Then, they didnít have facilities to properly feed and care for them, so they dynamited coal reefs to get fish for the dolphins. It just happened in July 2003. Five dolphins died the first week after capture. We donít know how many others died after that."
"We should talk about whatís driving the captivity industry now."
"Yeah, we should. Itís riding captive dolphins. Huwees pay big bucks to touch and ride a dolphin, so the industry wants to capture more dolphins for that business. Thatís why theyíre opening all those new dolphin riding centers in those Caribbean countries."
"Itís not just the Caribbean. Itís other countries too, like Japan."
"We donít want to talk about Japan here, do we? Then we would have to talk about dolphin slaughters too. If huwees want to know about that, they can find it in our Endangered Dolphins web pages."
"They should go to The Dolphin News too and read Helene OíBarryís report about dolphin trainers participating in dolphin slaughters."
"OK boys, letís talk about the captivity processÖ Capturing dolphins is a violent procedure. Pods of bottlenose dolphins are chased to exhaustion, surrounded with a net, and dragged onto the boat where the capture team searches through the terrified group for the ones they want. The lucky ones are thrown overboard. Those selected are taken ashore and will never see their ocean world and their pod again. Some die from shock."
"If they survive, the ones that are selectedÖ"
"Selected? You mean kidnapped! Donít be so sweeing mellow, dude. Stop talking like a huwee!"
"Lighten up, Doak. Let me continue. Then the kidnapped dolphins are transported to aquariums. Theyíre all victims. In the worst case, two or three dolphins are isolated in amusement parks, roadside shows, shopping centers, even traveling dolphin showsÖ"
"What do you mean two or three, sometimes thereís only one poor lonely dolphin."
"Youíre right, thatís rare but it does happenÖ In captivity, the best a kidnapped dolphin can hope for is a small sea-cage in some of the coastal attractions in Florida, because at least they have natural seawater. But theyíre still confined to a small enclosed space, far from their pods, with nowhere to go and nothing to explore."
"Thatís not the worst of it. Itís being deprived of our lives, our loved ones, and our social connections that really hurts us. Wild and free, we thrive in our pods. Bottlenose pods have ten to fifteen dolphins, but we visit other pods too and connect with them, sometimes mate with them. Spinners have larger pods. The point is that we suffer a loss of companionship in captivity that huwees donít understand. Now, letís talk about the captive life style."
"You mean having to beg for your food, to perform weird, unnatural behaviors just to get a dead fish."

Training session at the Dolphin Research Center, Florida, USA. The dolphin's abnormal behavior is known as "tail-walking."
Copyright Helene O'Barry/Dolphin Project
"Ever see a dolphin tail walking in the wild?"
"Of course not, what purpose would it serve?"
"You boys are swimming off course again. When we talk about the captive life style we have to say that the first two things a newly captured dolphin has to learn is to eat dead fish and accept hand feeding. Theyíll never experience the thrill of chasing and catching live prey, and the joy of surfing the waves again. So letís talk about how dolphins get Ďtrained.í"
"You mean how we get starved, donít you?"
"Thatís right, Doak. Our natural behavior does not include playing basketball, tail walking or singing and dancing. In order to train us to perform circus tricks, the trainer must gain complete control. They do it by taking advantage of the captive dolphins' powerless predicament: Captive dolphins depend completely on their trainers to be fed. This gives the trainer a lot of control over the dolphins. The trainer teaches the dolphins that every time they do a trick right, like waving at the audience or tail walking, the trainer blows a whistle to signal to the dolphin that the trick was satisfactory and then the trainer gives a fish to the dolphin as a reward. If they donít do it, they donít get a fish. Thatís how dolphins are trained to walk on their tail, wave at the audience, and take children from the audience for rides around the tank in small rubber boats."
"Thatís right, Mookeeo. As one dolphin trainer told Ric OíBarry: ĎIf the dolphins arenít hungry, you can forget about making them jump for you.í"
"But the training has a damaging effect on the dolphins. While learning to perform unnatural behaviors like hitting a ball with their snout and jumping through hoops, captive dolphins gradually forget natural behaviors they need to survive in the wild. If they were released, they would have to be untrained to learn their natural behaviors all over again and dolphins born in captivity would probably never learn how to catch their own live fish. They would go begging for food from boats."
"Thatís so sadÖThis conversation is depressing. I want some hana."
"Yes, it is. Stay with me now, Nina. Letís talk about the spectacle of the dolphin show."
"Yeah, right. The dolphin captivity industry routinely claims that dolphins jump through hoops and play basketball because they like it, not because theyíre hungry."
"Listen to this, the dolphinarium Kolmarden of Sweden describes the dolphin show as "a brilliant performance leaving no one in doubt that the participants are thriving and having a great time. They jump through hoops and play ball. The dolphins even sing and dance!" Dolphin trainer Susanne Adolfsson adds to the rosy picture by declaring that the performing dolphins "love every minute of it."
"How the swee would she know?"
"Well, we do have fun loving dolphinalities, donít we boys? You do like my hana, donít you boys?"
"Nina, we love your hana, but donít you want us to talk about the deception, how the trainers make a spectacle of the captive dolphins?"
"Oh, swee! OK, Iíll do it. They make it look like a captive dolphin is a happy dolphin by glossy, theatrical scenery. The water of the dolphins' tank is invitingly blue, the music is playing, and the ever-smiling dolphins jump through hoops, play basketball and take their ever-smiling trainers for fast-speed rides around the tank.

"Then the trainers tell the public that their relationship with dolphins is based on cooperation and mutual understanding, as if they and the captive dolphins form one big, happy family. As phrased by the dolphinarium of Sweden: "Communication works! We do in fact understand each other."
"Like I said, how the swee would they know?"
"Isnít it ironic how the tricks dolphins are trained to perform become the most convincing basis of the illusion? When the dolphins "walk" on their tail and "play" basketball, the spectators interpret the dolphins' behavior as fun-loving playfulness. And when the dolphins "kiss" their trainers, applaud at their own tricks with their pectoral fins, and eagerly nod their heads in agreement to questions like "are we having fun?" it adds human-like traits to the dolphins, leaving the audience with the false notion that there is a strong bond between the dolphins and their trainers."
"Duh!! How come huwees in the audience donít get it? The dolphins are hungry!!!"
"They hide it. When the show is over and the music has stopped, the spectators go home amused -- happily ignorant and undisturbed by the exhibit of dominance they have just witnessed."
"Our writer fell for it too."
"Yeah, he did, but he ainít that smart anyway. He swam with captive dolphins too."
"Give him a break, Doak. He may not be quick, but after a while he figures things out. He swallowed the captivity industry PR until he found Ric OíBarry and the Dolphin Project on the Internet. Thatís when he had second thoughts and eventually saw through the veil of the dolphin show.

"So, letís sum this up. Where do you think dolphins should live? Wild and free in the ocean, where they have their own free will, their own communities, where they can go where they want to go, do what they want to doÖ"
"Mookeeo, you know I love ancient rock and roll. You sound like The Mammas and the Pappas."
"Nina, donít interrupt me. Iím on a roll. Now where was I? Oh yeahÖor restricted to a jail cell in a barren, concrete tank, deprived of their sonic sensesÖ"
"Yeah, thatís like putting a blindfold on them."
"Will you let me finish? What are you two laughing about?"
"We donít usually see you this serious."
"Cut it out! I started this quest didnít I? Letís see, oh yeahÖsubject to the whims of tyrannical handlers who withhold food in order to train them to do unnatural acts."
"Thatís right, depriving them of their own free will."
"You got it. Blinded, restricted to a jail cell with no trial, not even a crimeÖYou dols canít stay serious, can you?"
"Huwees arenít going to know about our fun loving dolphinalities. We already told them all this stuff. Iím getting bored. Letís have some hana."
"I just have a few more thing to say to huwees: Can you see behind the dolphinís smile now? If you were a dolphin, where would you want to live?

"Now, letís close it up. Nina, since you studied law, tell huwees where they can get information about captive dolphins."
"OK, then we can have some hana?"
"Yeah, you luscious dolphina. I want to make it with you!"
"Another song, oh, youíre so romantic! OK, hereís what you want me to tell them: Marine mammal captures and the sale or transfer of captive dolphins has been recorded in the Marine Mammal Inventory Report (MMIR) since the Marine Mammal Protection Act passed in 1972. The MMIR is obtainable through the Freedom of Information Act and verifies some of the harm inflicted on dolphins by the captivity industry. It also identifies those who participate in the dolphin slave trade. Call the National Marine Fisheries Service at (301) 713-2289 and ask for a complete copy of the most current MMIR."
"Ok, one more thing. Letís all get together for this.
"Folks, if you read our story, you know that we believe in nonviolence. We want you to be dolphin saviors, not dolphin trainers. If youíre interested in keeping dolphins wild and free, hereís what you can do:
  • Read the MMIR
  • Email the National Marine Fisheries Service, protesting dolphin captures
  • Picket dolphin shows
  • Write Congress and state legislators
  • Join and participate in environmental organizations
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