Bite-Back June 2003

Keeping large marine mammals in captivity has long been known to cause them suffering, illness and premature death but the latest report from the Whale and Dolphin Society on the American fashion for ‘dolphin petting pools’ raises further concerns. It exposes the unsafe, unsanitary and overcrowded conditions in which the dolphins are forced to live as they are fed by the paying public, who are supplied with food to encourage them to come over and be petted. The Bottlenose dolphins are exposed to injury and stress from lack of sufficient refuge from the public and become obese due to constant and unregulated feeding. Sea World Parks now have such petting pools across the US, unregulated by government agencies, and calls are growing for Congress to close them down or at least follow the lead of Britain in making strict regulations that put the welfare of the dolphins first.
The Animal & Plant Inspection Services are supposed to regulate such things and are contactable on: APHIS.Web@aphis.usda.gov

Sea World also has many orcas (killer whales) held in pools for public entertainment, including Corky, a female orca who has been in captivity for over 30 years. Keeping such large, wide-ranging and social animals alone in a pool seems particularly cruel (a captive orca is always recognisable by its dorsal fin, which can stand up to six feet high in the wild but collapses in captivity). Corky’s original pod still exists, despite another 11 orcas having been taken from it, all of which have since died (110 of the 134 orcas known to have been captured for sea parks have died). A campaign has started to return Corky back to her original group and San Diego’s Sea World, who hold Corky, can be encouraged to go along with this on www.adventureisland.com/seaworld/ca/park_info_home.aspx (click contact)

John Nightingale