Dolphinaria: The Dark Side of a Boom

Dolphins have fascinated humans since time immemorial. In the ancient world, dolphins were revered as messengers of the gods – anyone who killed a dolphin, paid for it with their own life. The attraction for these highly developed marine mammals continues to be unbroken. But dolphins pay a high price for our infatuation and desire to be close to them.
Dolphins are migratory animals and travel distances of up to 100 kilometeres daily. They live and hunt in social groups and orient themselves acoustically in the darkness of the oceans through their highly developed echolocation sense.

On land, their habitat cannot be reproduced nor can their biological needs be met. Each tank is far too small for dolphins, too bare, too artificial, and simply too foreign to the species. When these intelligent animals are kept in captivity, they are deprived of everything: their freedom, their complex family ties and their natural behaviour.

Hunted, Captured, Tortured – Loved?

Around 200 dolphinaria exist worldwide. The demand for dolphins is ever increasing and because such demand cannot be covered from offspring bred in captivity, dolphins are captured from the wild. The brutal and stressful capture techniques often endanger the survival of entire dolphin populations.

For dolphins that survive capture and transport, this is the start of a terrifying ordeal. Henceforth, they can only swim in a confined space – an entirely artifical environment for them. As these wild animals are continuously exposed to the presence of people and crammed together arbitrarily with their fellow species (yet of different social units), they have no place for retreat.

Consequently, captive dolphins are under constant stress causing many animals to become sick and to die much younger than their wild counterparts. As an example, eight dolphins have died in the Swiss "Connyland" alone within just four years.

Respect Dolphins as Wild Animals

Since 1989, OceanCare has been committed to the right to freedom and welfare of dolphins worldwide. Already in OceanCare’s founding year, the construction of a dolphinarium in the canton of Valais could be prevented. In 1998, Circus Knie's children's zoo in the Rapperswil ceased the holding of captive dolphins after OceanCare had prevented the capture of two dolphins from the wild in Jamaica. In 2012 a breakthrough at political level was achieved with the import ban on whales and dolphins in Switzerland.

Due to a petition filed in 2011, the EU is currently reviewing whether the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity conforms to the European Zoos Directive. According to OceanCare and other partner organisations, this is not the case. Within the EU, Spain is the sad leader with 90 captive animals held in 11 dolphinaria. As part of the campaign "SOSdolphins", OceanCare successfully promotes – together with the organisation FAADA – the critical review of these institutions and calls for an end to the dolphinaria in Spain.

OceanCare strongly advises against the visit of dolphinaria. If you respect dolphins, you should encounter them in the wild as part of a research trip or responsibly organised whale and dolphin watching tours.


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