Updated: Mar 17
We recently published an article on how the Mexican ban on dolphinariums has us hopeful for animal rights. While the ban was a good step in the right direction, we still haven’t seen significant change, and we have a long way to go in animal rights, particularly when it comes to dolphins.
In Riviera Maya, there are more than 15 captive dolphin facilities with an average of 100 dolphins in each.
Dolphinariums are theme parks, marine mammal parks, zoos, or aquariums where dolphins are confined for research, but more commonly for public performances. Tourists are usually drawn to these parks out of a desire to find something fun and entertaining to do for their kids and families. However, many people simply don’t know the dangers these parks present to dolphins. Dolphinariums cause deep emotional, physical and psychological suffering for dolphins.
In the wild, dolphins can live 20-40 years, but in captivity, they go through severe trauma and neurosis from boredom, stress and anxiety. They are denied family bonds and social community, and they are prevented from expressing their natural instincts and behaviors. They are unable to swim the tens of miles they would daily in the wild. In fact, their enclosures are generally less than 1% of their natural habitat range. They are unable to dive, when they’d normally be able to dive 60 feet in the wild. In dolphinariums they live in concrete, restrictive tanks where they must perform tricks and entertain people against their will. Dolphins also navigate via echolocation, or sonar signals, but in confined pools sound bounces off the walls and the reverberation drives them insane. Dolphins were simply never meant to live in confined spaces. Out of trauma and stress, the dolphins bang themselves against tank grates, biting and chewing the grates, and they end up with serious injuries.
Every day the dolphins are swimming with humans and subject to germs and disease. They are exposed to pathogens and bacteria that their immune systems were not built for. Many get sick and die from these illnesses. The chlorine in the pools subjects them to chemicals, and they are deadly to the dolphins. The chlorine hurts their eyes and so many dolphins have become blind from the chlorine.
It is common for the dolphins to change their character to become more aggressive, frustrated, and anxious, and the female dolphins have even killed their newborns. Trainers believe that the females don’t want their babies to live in this unnatural environment, so they suffocate them. The mothers live with deep misery.
Where Do The Dolphins Come From?
Where exactly do these dolphins come from? They certainly do not come willingly. Parks will buy dolphins from hunters who catch them in the wild. The dolphin hunts tear apart families and can often lead to injury or sudden death from entanglement or suffocation. The dolphins are then transported by plane to the buyer. If the buyer is unsatisfied with the “look” of the dolphins, they can be sold as meat.
Females are considered more trainable, so they are usually the ones captured. Sadly, the dolphin population is already declining, and this only makes matters worse. Without having females to breed and reproduce, the dolphin population is at risk.
Many dolphinariums participate in captive breeding too. The dolphins who are born and raised in these tanks live short and stressful lives, and they lose their natural instincts. This means even if freed, they would have no ability to survive in the wild.
It is illegal to capture dolphins in Mexican waters, so many facilities in Riviera Maya get their dolphins from Cuba—the largest export in the Caribbean. The Solomon Islands and Taiji, Japan have two of the largest dolphin exports. Dolphins are purchased for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Using dolphins for entertainment and interactive activities is inhumane and is purely for business profit. These parks disregard animal welfare laws and many violate federal law. Businesses use permits for scientific discovery to maneuver laws, while they continue to make millions in revenue from shows and overpriced photos for tourists posing with dolphins.
In April a law was proposed to put a stop to dolphinariums. Dolphinariums in Mexico, 70% of which are in Quintana Roo, have to complete an inventory of their current number of dolphins. The species on the inventory will be allowed to remain in captivity for the remainder of their lives, and the females will be allowed to breed in captivity, but they will not be allowed to bring in dolphins from the wild. Conservation-oriented research will be exempt from this new reform.
Spend a full day in Sian Ka'an with us! This biosphere reserve is a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How To Help
The number one thing you can do is to avoid visiting marine mammal parks, aquarium shows or any kind of dolphinarium. Inform others on your reasoning for not going and encourage them to not visit these places either.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to write in the comment section below or send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.