ABC Primetime Dolphin Piece

Last night, ABC Primetime ran a news piece on the growing number of folks who wish to interact with dolphins while on vacation. The trouble is, facilities around the world wish to cash in on this demand and have now contributed to some alarming inhumane practices of wild dolphin capture. Naturally, I have thoughts....

I do wish the piece had focused more on the wonderful standards that the U.S. uses regarding marine mammals. While the Marine Mammal Protection Act does allow for certain kinds of catches (why/how will animals be caught, etc), the marine mammal industry is relying more and more on its own successful breeding program. No dolphins have been caught by the U.S. in about 15 years because we have plenty of animals born to healthy parents that appear to be thriving. Sick or stressed animals often have altered appetites, abnormal behavior patterns, poor reproductivity, etc. In the U.S., thanks to the MMP Act and the AMMPA, animals receive excellent medical care, enrichment, exercise and well-balanced diets. They typically live longer than non-captives, have great reproductive success, exhibit playful and social bonding behaviors.

The trouble is that these regulations are for the U.S. only. Japan was a major focus of the ABC piece. Every year they have massive drive hunts, where they drive the animals into shallow, isolated waters and catch them for sale of meat. Trainers sometimes pick out the best of the bunch prior to slaughter for use or sale in zoos/aquariums. It is horrible to see and ABC had some gory footage. It is illegal for the U.S. to obtain animals from a catch like that. However, those poor souls can be transported anywhere else; a popular destination is Mexico which has a healthy tourism demand for more marine parks and of course, more dolphins. A dolphin can cost around $100,000 to buy, but bring about 1 million a year in revenue. This means that some people may do whatever it takes to obtain an animal, even support these inhumane practices.

What can we do? If you want to interact with dolphins, do it inside the U.S. and research the facility you will be visiting and find out about their practices. Are they a member of the AMMPA and AZA? Continue to support legislation in the U.S. like the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Get involved online through the Humane Society, IMATA or AMMPA and watch for issues and how you can assist these great organizations. Do not support an organization that has obtained animals through illegal or even inhumane capture and is not regulated by a code of humane laws.

The purpose of captive animals doing interactions should never be to make a buck. The purpose should be to provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will affect the individual so deeply that they will care for that animal and its counterparts, the ecosystem and then practice global conservation and stewardship. As long as these things are done with the highest conern for the animals' wellbeing, then I will continue to support this kind of practice. I live in an area with a high volume of Japanese tourists. I have the opportunity to show these good people that the animals can be obtained and cared for in a differnet, better way than what their governement currently allows. Maybe it will inspire them to act in their own country. Worth a shot...


At 12:58 PM, Blogger Edward said...

I hope you got to see the (Nature or Nova) segment titled "Killers in Eden". An incredible tale of cooperation between Australian whalers and killer whales, and the possibility of a remarkably intelligent killer whale who bridged the gap. Also taught me about "The Law of the Tongue."

And yes, the annual drive in Japan is terrible.

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice site about animals


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