It's no secret that Arizona is getting its first swim-with-the-dolphins (SWTD) entertainment center in the very near future, and it's no secret that the plan is incredibly controversial: Dolphins in the desert?!? Sounds crazy, right?
Ever since New Times first wrote about #DolphinFreeAZ, the large and loud movement to stop the Mexican company Dolphinaris from building the facility near Scottsdale, we've heard from many, many, many people all over the nation who have an opinion on the matter.
We'll lay out the arguments from SWTD proponents in a future post. But here are the top 10 reasons critics of Dolphinaris oppose this new entertainment center and say you should, too...
10. People will get hurt.
"One thing that all SWTD programs have in common is injuries," says Russ Rector, a longtime dolphin activist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "People get hurt." Dolphins may look friendly, says Rector, but they've been known to bite, slap, and rake (scratch with their teeth) people. In some cases, the animals even become sexually aggressive.
9. Dolphins and humans can transmit diseases to one another.
Dolphins and whales in captivity are very susceptible to respiratory infections, and according the Humane Society, diseases can be transmitted in both directions. Additionally, many worry that dolphins in Arizona may contract Valley fever, a fungal infection that sickens many humans and animals every year.
8. Dolphins suffer severe psychological stress in these environments.
It has been well documented that dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals on earth, and critics say captivity foments stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses or disturbances. "Dolphins are beautiful and amazing creatures in their natural habitat … but stick them in a cage, and you watch them change,” a dolphin trainer is quoted as saying in an article on the animal-news site the Dodo about the "dark underbelly" of SWTD programs.
7. Dolphins often hurt each other in these facilities.
Captivity can literally drive animals into a state of psychosis, prompting erratic and often violent behavior directed toward their fellow marine creatures.
6. The weather poses a threat to the safety and health of the dolphins.
Anyone familiar with Arizona knows we get some pretty extreme weather, from monsoons and dust storms to crazy-high temperatures in the summer. Critics say dolphins are just simply not suited to live in these conditions.
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5. There's reason to doubt the tanks will be large enough or kept sufficiently clean.
Dolphins defecate and urinate a lot, to the point where their pools become "fetid pits," activist Russ Rector says. Plus, dolphins in the wild cover huge areas and live in complex social structures that could never be replicated in captivity.
4. This isn't the only option for dolphins accustomed to living in captivity.
A common argument proponents of SWTD programs make is that because these animals are born and raised in captivity, they don't have the skills to survive in the wild. But dolphinariums and the true wild aren't the only choices. There are other options, such as sea sanctuaries, where animals can live a somewhat protected life in a natural habitat.
3. There's no evidence that interacting with captive animals improves humans' desire to protect them or promotes education.
Spanish biologist Joan Gonzalvo has studied captive-dolphin entertainment facilities and found that few offered any educational component. "The claim most commonly brandished [about providing] a great educational experience, is simply not true," he writes. "The main purpose of these performances is to display dolphins for human entertainment and amusement."
2. The facilities perpetuate the global trade in captive dolphins.
If the captive breeding of dolphins for facilities like Dolphinaris' doesn't bother you, consider that as long as there's a demand for captive marine animals, there will be hunts and captures such as the one that takes place every year every year in Japan.
1. Dolphins don't belong in the desert.