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Following last year’s decision to ban dolphin performances, Mexico City has just announced a ban on dolphinariums. Within six months, all captive facilities, including Dolphin Discovery Six Flags Mexico, have to relocate their captive dolphins.
Dolphins, just like whales, do not belong in aquariums or captivity at all. These extraordinarily intelligent and emotional animals often experience extreme frustration and psychological distress after being separated from their families and forced into tanks that are a mere fraction of their natural home.
Captive dolphins also suffer from illnesses that are truly unusual for their species in the wild. Since they have nowhere to escape, they often have injuries caused by tank mates – something that happens very rarely in their natural environment. Shut off in small pools, they start showing abnormal repetitive behaviors – signs of zoochosis. Bored and stressed every single day of their lives, they listlessly swim in circles or lie motionless. Dolphins have been observed self-harming, by slamming themselves against the sides of their tanks’ walls, and even attempting suicide by intentionally flinging themselves out of their tanks or swallowing inedible stones. To calm the animals down, many captive facilities use psychoactive drugs – instead of acknowledging that it is the captivity itself that causes so many alarming problems.
Fortunately, more and more countries are now recognizing the problem that is marine mammal captivity and working towards freeing those beautiful animals. Chile, Costa Rica, and Croatia have already banned keeping cetaceans in captivity. In 2016, the National Aquarium in Baltimore started its plan to send its eight bottlenose dolphins to a sanctuary. This year, the Vancouver Aquarium shared that it will no longer keep whales and dolphins in captivity.
Once again, Mexico City is taking incredible steps to end the senseless captivity and exploitation of dolphins. The new ban is another win in the fight against marine mammal captivity and we hope it will inspire other governments to follow the lead and commit to emptying the tanks!
Image source: Guillaume Meurice/Pexels