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I am a 15 year old student. I have been fascinated by dolphins and whales as long as I can remember. Since I opened my eyes into a blessed island surrounded by the ocean, I have seen dolphins more than a few times in the wild. In my eyes, I saw breathtaking creatures that teased and leaped in the endless ocean. They are definitely interested and curious about human beings, and it was impossible not to feel their joy and freedom just watching them. To me, dolphins resembled freedom, and I’m sure that any Maldivian who had encountered the amazing cetaceans in the wild will feel it to some extent too!
About three years ago, my interest in animals made me persuade my parents to take me to the Safari World during a trip to Bangkok, Thailand. We visited the Dolphin and Beluga Whale show, which I profoundly regretted later. I could see the difference between the wild dolphins in Maldives and the dolphins in the show. They were miserable! Sure, the tank in which they were kept was gigantic, but I questioned myself. Is the tank big enough for these mammals that were once swimming in an endless ocean which by no means can be compared to this cage? Dolphins are mammals, not fish. They are huge, meaningful creatures with big hearts confined in a small body. Thus, that visit to the Safari World turned out to be my last trip to a place where dolphins and whales were cruelly kept in captivity. It was merely a feeling that these animals did not belong there.
Later, I saw the movie “The Cove” which confirmed that it was not only a feeling! Dolphins and whales do not belong in captivity. “In the wild, they’re travelling 40 miles a day. They could be surfing at one area in the morning, and the next hour they could be 25 miles away teasing or socializing. Dolphins are acoustic creatures. These dolphins are captured and put in a concrete tank surrounded by a stadium full of screaming people.” Imagine how they would feel!
When I heard the news about the opening of a dolphinarium in Maldives, it was like a nightmare come true! Since the government ministers have given Mr. Amir Mansoor the right to open a dolphinarium, I did a research on the Internet, trying to understand why the government would promote this absurd proposal to open a dolphinarium in an eco friendly country like Maldives. Here are a few facts that I believe the public, and the Maldivian government should be aware of:
- The average life span of a dolphin in the wild is 45 years; yet half of all captured dolphins die within their first two years of captivity. The survivors last an average of only 5 years in captivity.
- When a baby dolphin is born in captivity, the news is usually kept secret until the calf shows signs of survival. Although marine mammals do breed in captivity, the birth rate is not nearly as successful as the one in the wild, with high infant mortality rates.
- Wild dolphins can swim 40 to 100 miles per day – in pools they go around in circles.
- Many marine parks subject their mammals to hunger so they will perform for their food. Jumping through hoops, tail walking and playing ball are trained behaviors that do not occur in the wild.
- When trapped together, males often become agitated and domineering. This creates pecking orders (unknown in the wild) and unprovoked attacks on each other and the trainers. In the ocean, although fights are not unknown, the wild dolphins have a chance to escape.
As dolphins and whales are large wild animals, the stress and trauma caused by captivity makes them dangerous, which proposes a threat to their trainers. The following is evidence.
In the year 2000, a dolphin entangled a trainer in a net, spun her around and held her underwater during a dolphin capture exercise at Sea World, San Diego. The trainer suffered three fractures and torn ligaments in her right arm.
In the year 2002, a Killer whale Orkid pulled a trainer into the pool by her foot at Sea World, San Diego. The trainer broke her arm before being rescued.
In the year 2006 a dolphin bit a boy celebrating his 7th birthday with a sleepover at SeaWorld Orlando. The boy, under the supervision of a SeaWorld employee, was petting the dolphin at the Dolphin Cove, a petting attraction. The boy’s mother, Hollie Bethany, told the Orlando Sentinel two adults had to pry the dolphin’s mouth open to free the boy’s hand. The bite bruised the boy’s thumb but did not break the skin. SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides told the paper no changes are being planned for the attraction. A dolphin at the same attraction had bitten a 6-year-old Georgia boy on the arm three weeks earlier, the Sentinel reported. Bides said the dolphin in that incident might be sent to a “behavior modification” program.
In 2010, Trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was grabbed by a killer whale, pulled into the water and held there at Sea World, Orlando. She was killed brutally by this stressed out whale in front of thousands of spectators.
Like Richard O’Berry once said, dolphins are whales. Size does not matter!
I would like to state that no matter how much we try to replicate the features of the sea in a dolphin cage; there is no possibility that a dolphin held captive will be happy and healthy. This is not a matter of keeping the dolphins in Maldives safe. The dolphins that are bred in captivity and transported to Maldives are also dolphins. This is a matter of saving and protecting these wild animals and discouraging the brutal hunting and slaughtering of dolphins worldwide. I wish that this could not only be about the huge amounts of profit that could be made from this industry, but also about what a good deed we are doing for the environment and ways of life and nature by refraining from such activities which can only be stated as inhumane animal abuse. I sincerely hope that the government ministers and Mr. Amir Mansoor will consider this, and find sympathy and love in their hearts to prevent this nightmare from happening by abstaining from holding dolphins, which can help diminish the number of dolphins that are captured every year in order to be sold to dolphinariums all over the world.