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Where When How N/D 2017 - J/F 2018 : Page 96

Protect Dolphins from Captivity In the Turks and Caicos Islands A proposal to build a captive dolphin facil-ity on Grand Turk for the entertainment of tourists is being considered. The keep-ing of captive dolphins should be consid-ered counter to the Turks & Caicos Islands “Beautiful by Nature” slogan. Dolphins are complex and highly intel-ligent animals. Some characteristics that make dolphins more like humans than other animals are: • They exhibit complex behavioural, cognitive and social traits. • The brains of dolphins are highly de-veloped and larger than humans. • They have clearly demonstrated the ability to understand how different things function and how to understand combi-nations of complex instructions. • They have highly developed commu-nication skills. • Dolphins experience emotions much like humans. What happens to these highly intelli-gent, social animals when they are kept in captivity? Many of their natural skills and attributes begin to change. Dolphins during the capture process suffer tremendous trauma and stress. There is a six-fold increase in the mortal-ity rate of dolphins captured from the wild in the first five days after capture. In fact, this increase in stress mortality hap-pens each time a dolphin is transported. Given the confined space of all captive habitats in which dolphins are held, physi-cal activity is greatly reduced. Sea pens (fenced off portions of open seawater or lagoons) are thought to be better, but even the largest sea pens greatly reduce the space available for the dolphins. They also generally don’t provide protection for the animals from hazards such as hur-ricanes, potential pollutants from the land, and potential exposure from human waste. Wild dolphins catch their food, which consists of live fish. Captive dolphins must be taught to eat dead fish which is lower in nutritional value. Dolphins swimming free. Photo by Lawrence Wahba Social structures within dolphin com-munities are quite dynamic, but in captiv-ity dominance determines the hierarchy resulting in a substantial increase in ag-gressive behavior between the dolphins. Dolphin communication skills change, or don’t develop as they would in the wild. The vocalisations decrease in diver-sity and new vocalisations are learned, often imitating noises found in their new environment. Dolphinaria operators cite the fact that lifespans in captive facilities is com-parable to that found in the wild. There is no increase in lifespan for captive dol-phins and there is continuing debate about whether lifespans in captivity are actually worse. The health of dolphins in captivity is also a challenge to monitor. The lack of mobile facial expressions (the “smile” on their face is a fixed, unchanging expres-sion) makes it difficult to identify animals in physical distress. Most often the first sign of a problem is a lack of eating with dolphins often dying within a day or two of this observation. Captive dolphin programs require dol-phins. Captive breeding programs do not generate enough dolphins to fulfill the de-mand from new and existing dolphinaria. This means more dolphins must be cap-tured from the wild and the methods used to capture dolphins are traumatic and lead to many dolphin deaths. Swim with dolphin programs provide no educational benefits, they merely ex-ploit the animals while exposing them to additional risks, such as increased stress related to too much exposure to humans, increased exposure to health hazards and health risks from inadvertent or inten-tional touching of sensitive areas such as the blowhole and eyes. Humans also are at risk during these programs from ag-gressive behaviour from the animals. Bottom line, captive dolphins are much like captive humans or slaves. This is not an attraction that is com-patible with the “Beautiful by Nature” Turks and Caicos Islands, and only harms the eco-friendly image of this country. I BY DON STARK -TCREEF.ORG You Can HELP Us Preserve and Protect the TCI Marine Environment GO TO >> WWW.TCREEF.ORG 96 • • • • • NOV/DEC/JAN/FEB 2017/2018 “Where When How -Turks & Caicos Islands”

No Captive Dolphins

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