Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dolphins of Taiji part II Captivity

   It is not hard to find people all over the world who think that the killing of dolphins is heartbreaking. Most humans love dolphins, and find the thought of them be killed in such a horrific manner unacceptable. But, bring up the fact of the live dolphin trade, or claim that places that hold dolphins captive worldwide, have anything to do with the dolphin drives, and you can find yourself in the middle of a huge debate. Why is this? Why is it horrific to slaughter these dolphins, but its OK to rip them from their family for our own amusement?
  For the dolphins of Taiji and other countries that capture them, their new found life is anything but happy. In Taiji, once the dolphins are in the killing cove, the trainers come in to look for the best of the groups. They are normally looking for female bottle-nose dolphins, but they do take males and other species as well. The trainers have been seen taking mothers and leaving their calves, and have also been seen taking very young dolphins that were much to young being without their moms. When trainers find the dolphins they want, they put them into a net or sling tied to the side of a skiff and transferred to the sea pens in the harbor. It has also been witnessed that smaller dolphins are loaded right into the skiffs and taken directly to the Taiji Whale Museum.

Trainers looking over a dolphin

                                        Dolphin pens in the harbor

 The dolphins new life starts by being taught tricks on command. They are rewarded with a meal of dead fish. Dolphins eat a host of different types of food in the wild, but none of it is dead. Another new thing taught to the dolphins is how to pose to be examined and how to take medications. Dolphins in captivity undergo exams and medical test. They must know their role in these exams to make things run smoothly. Dolphins also receive vitamins and different types of medications in captivity. A major problem with dolphins in captivity is stress, boredom, and depression, which lead to ulcers. Medications that prevent and treat these problems are often given. Animals receive these medications 2 different ways. One is by medication being stuffed or injected into the fish they eat, the other is by mouth with a syringe and feeding tube.

Learning to get their blood drawn.

Learning to take medication from a feeding tube.

Putting medication into the fish.

Once the dolphins are trained, and someone buys them, they are moved to their new homes. The dolphins are sold to aquariums or swim with me programs around the world. The dolphins are taken out of the sea pens,  put into creates, and then loaded onto trucks.  These animals of the sea are transported by both truck and by plane, depending on where they are heading. Their journey to their new home can take them thousands of miles away.While in the creates the trainers put gel pads or wet towels on the dolphins to keep them moist.They can be in these creates for hours, even days. Once they make it to their new homes, if they make it there, they are put in holding pens to be observed by staff and slowly are introduced to their "new pod".
 Sadly, anyone with money can buy these dolphins. Most of them end up in places that are very unhealthy for them. Four dolphins that were bought from Taiji were found in a backyard swimming pool in Egypt. These dolphins were in poor conditions. Their pool did not have the right filtration and they were swimming in their own waste.  This is not the first time animals from dolphin drives have been found in such conditions.

Dolphins found in swimming pool in Egypt

Besides eating dead fish, which is not a normal way of life for wild dolphins, another major change for dolphins in captivity, is their sonar use..or the lack of it.. Dolphins use sonar to find their way in the ocean. They use it to detect the size, shape, and speed of objects hundreds of yards away. Their skills are so precise it can determine the difference between different types of fish based solely on density. Dolphins in captivity can not use this natural sonar. The concrete walls of the tanks they are held in makes it imposable. Some researchers say that dolphins born in captivity never learn to use their sonar at all. Many argue that in captivity a dolphin doesn't need the use of sonar any. Tanks are not murky and they are hand feed fish, so its just not important. Still, the other side would say a child doesn't not need the ability to see or hear since it has a parents to guide them through life, but no one would purposely take a child's vision or ability to hear.
  One other difference between life of a captive vs, wild dolphin is life expectancy. A dolphin in the wild can live 40 to 50 years. Captured dolphins life expectancy is grim, to say the least. Over 50% of dolphins caught in a dolphin drive dies within the first 3 months. Of those that past the 3 month mark, 50% of those die within 5 years. There are some captured dolphins that have lived relatively long lives.Still. the average life span of a dolphin in captivity is 15 years. Although, the oldest living dolphin in captivity is Nellie, who is said to have been born in captivity at Marineland in Fl. in Feb. 1953. So, Nellie will celebrate her 58th birthday in 2 months.

Nellie in a Timex commercial

                                          Nellie on her 57th Birthday

Japan has called dolphins "pest" and claim that they eat all the fish in the area. They claim that buy killing the dolphins, they are able to maintain other sustainable fish populations. It is not uncommon for areas to have "resident" dolphins in coves and bays. These animals hang out in a certain area all year long. But the majority of dolphins, and dolphins caught on dolphin drives, are not residents of the area they were captured. In the wild dolphins have been known to travel up to a hundred miles in a single day. In captivity dolphins are held in concert tanks. The size of these tanks very from place to place. Most countries, like the US, have regulations set up to ensure the dolphins have "enough space". You would think that the space requirements would be pretty large, for animals that swim such vast areas in a single day, but this is not the case. In the US, the Animal Welfare Act, put in place to protect animals in captivity, calls for a minimum of 24ft x 24ft and 6 feet deep, with 95.38 square ft. of surface space for 2 bottle-nose dolphin. (FYI..A Minke Whale only requires a space of 56ft x 56ft and 14ft deep. You can read more requirements of animals in captivity by checking out The animal care resource guide.) This is no different then locking a person up in a prison cell, except, the person normally has done something to deserve it.  
   In the US, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed on October 21, 1972. All marine mammals are protected under the MMPA. The MMPA prohibits, with certain exceptions, the "take" of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S. But in the 1980's, marine theme parks, including SeaWorld, aquariums and even the U.S. Navy imported dolphins captured in Japan in slaughter drives. The last dolphin to be caught in US waters was in 1993, for the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, 21 years after the MMPA was put into place.
  The Associations of Zoo's and Aquariums (AZA)  has accredited over 200 Zoo's and Aquariums, including SeaWorld. Of those there are about 200 dolphins in captivity between them. 75% of these were born in captivity, the other 25% were caught in the wild. The 25% of wild caught dolphins came from being rescued  after being beached or stranded and deemed unfit to go back into the wild, from a dolphin drive in Japan or the Salomon Islands, or caught in US waters. AZA, has since denounced the dolphin drives. With a healthy breeding program and new dolphins coming into the programs after being rescued, they have no need to catch dolphins from the wild.
  The sad reality is, these dolphins are being caught, pods are being murdered, and a select few from the pods are being held captive and sold into slavery. It doesn't matter where they are being sent, it just needs to stop! Most countries in the world have moved away from human slavery. It was deemed morally unacceptable. When will the people of the world open their eyes and see that slavery is slavery, regardless of the species that is being forced into it.

1 comment:

  1. 2jail
    Definition of JAIL
    transitive verb
    : to confine in or as if in a jail

    Synonyms: commit, confine, immure, incarcerate, intern, imprison, jug, lock (up)

    Antonyms: discharge, free, liberate, release