Dolphins -Free or Captive?

This was received by email from Gwen McKenna on Monday 22nd May 2000.


Pink Albino Dolphin

Rare Pink Dolphin Seen in Louisiana Lake

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

It's sleek, fast, cute and pink.

A charter-boat captain from Lake Charles, La., photographed a rare pink dolphin a couple of weeks ago
Calcasieu Lake, an estuary just north of the Gulf of Mexico in southwestern Louisiana.

According to Calcasieu Charter Service's Web site, Capt. Erik Rue was on the lake June 24
with fishing customers when five dolphins came into view four normal-looking gray ones,
and a bright pink one that appeared to be an adolescent.

"It appears to be an uncanny freak of nature, an albino dolphin, with reddish eyes and glossy pink skin,"
the Web site reads. "It is small in comparison to the others it is traveling with and appears to be a youngster traveling with mama."

There is a species of pink dolphin that lives in the Amazon River in South America,
but this one appears to be a more common
bottlenose dolphin.

Though several species of dolphins and other whales are held in captivity, most of them are bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and most of the following comparisons apply to them.

1. In nature dolphins enjoy the ability to move freely. Their streamlined bodies and smooth skin enable them to gain fast speed in the water, and dolphins are always on the move, swimming up to 40 miles a day. They spend only10-20 percent of their time on the surface. They can hold their breath for as long as 20 minutes and dive to depths of more than 1,640 feet (500 meters).

In captivity dolphins are restricted to the size of their tank or enclosure. They can swim only a few feet before a wall stops them. Captive dolphins--especially those kept in a tank--spend a lot of time swimming in a small circle or simply lying motionless on the surface of the water.

2. In nature most dolphins spend their lives in the company of dolphins of their own kind, living in highly organized groups, known as pods. Some pods consist of females and their offspring; others of young males who--when they reach maturity--leave their mother's pod to form their own. Dolphins are very intelligent and social animals. Belonging to a pod is important to them, because this is where they find safety, love, and companionship. The social bonds within the pod may last for many years.

In captivity dolphins are forever separated from their pod. During the capture, the strong social bonds the dolphins have enjoyed and nurtured for years are abruptly destroyed. Different capture methods are used for different species of dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins are usually captured with a net before being hauled onto the capture boat. The capture is an extremely violent procedure, not only for the captured dolphin, but also for the pod that experiences the sudden and permanent loss of a pod member.

3. In nature the most intimate relationship within a dolphin community is that between a female dolphin and her baby. The two of them can be seen swimming very closely together, sharing a relationship characterized by deep affection. A young bottlenose dolphin will stay with his/her mother for as long as five years.

In captivity you'll find dolphins that have been captured at a very young age to be sent to various amusement parks and swim programs. They will never see their mother again.

4. In nature dolphins live in natural seawater.

In captivity most dolphins are confined in tanks containing chemically treated artificial seawater.

5. In nature dolphins use their sonar to check out various fish, coral reef, predators, and other dolphins. Dolphins are sound oriented in that they constantly scan their surrounding with bursts of sound. The use of sonar is as important to dolphins as eyesight to humans.

In captivity dolphins are restricted in using their sonar. They can't use it to chase live fish, as they are fed dead fish as food rewards. Neither can they put it to full use to explore their underwater world, because there isn't much to explore in a barren, concrete tank. Depriving dolphins of using their highly developed sensory sense is one of the most damaging aspects of captivity. It is like forcing a person to wear a blindfold for the rest of his life.

6. In nature dolphins spend many hours cooperatively chasing and catching fish. Dolphins have developed a number of sophisticated ways of foraging. Not only does foraging satisfy the dolphins' hunger. Chasing and catching live prey enables them to let all of their natural skills unfold: their speed, their intelligence, their use of sonar, and ability to communicate and cooperate.

In captivity the first two things a newly captured dolphin has to learn is to

1. Eat dead fish

2. Accept hand feeding

They will never again experience the thrill of chasing and catching live prey.

7. In nature the young dolphin's mother teaches the dolphin all the skills needed to live in the ocean: How to use sonar and avoid predators, where to look for food, and how to chase and catch fish. Everything a dolphin knows is a learned behavior. It is by watching and mimicking the behaviors of the other dolphins in the pod that the young dolphin learns how to dive, leap, breach, surf the waves, and communicate.

In captivity dolphins are trained by dolphin trainers to perform various circus tricks so they can perform dolphin shows and entertain the spectators. 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 the trick right, they receive a fish as a reward. This is 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. The training has a very damaging effect on the dolphins. While learning to perform unnatural behaviors like hitting a ball with their snout and jumping through hoops, the dolphins gradually forget their natural behaviors.

8. In nature dolphins live in a rich ocean environment. Here they enjoy the natural rhythms of the sea, the tides, and the currents. Throughout the day they hear many different sounds characteristic of the ocean world, such as waves breaking against the shore, and the clicks and whistles of other pod members. The natural rhythm and wide-ranging sounds of the ocean world are an essential aspect of a dolphin's life.

In captivity dolphins are kept in various amusement parks, roadside shows, shopping centers, and traveling dolphin shows. The Mirage Gambling Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, keeps captive dolphins, too. In Switzerland the dolphinarium "Connyland" keeps dolphins inside of a discotheque.

Dolphins are confined in small tanks inside of buildings in the United States, Canada, and many countries of Europe. They will never again experience the most elementary elements of nature, sunlight, for instance, and rain, live fish, and real seawater. The only sound they hear is the strange, excessive noise of generators, water pumps, loud disco music, cheering dolphin trainers, and applauding audiences.

Some dolphins are kept in sea-cages in roadside attractions along the coast, such as Dolphin Research Center, Dolphins Plus, Dolphin Connection, Dolphin Cove, and Theater of the Sea in Florida, USA. They are a little better off than dolphins in a tank, because at least they are in natural seawater. But these dolphins, too, are deprived of moving freely. Having to do dolphin shows several times a day, they are confined to a very small body of water, far away from their pods, with nowhere to go and nothing to explore.