It’s one thing to keep marine animals in captivity, snatched from the limitless oceans and kept in a cramped, artificial home. It doesn’t seem like it could get any worse than that. But as it turns out, it can.

At some Japanese “Dolphinariums,” dolphins go through periods of time when the tanks themselves are drained of water. Sadly, this is common practice. Once a month (and in the summer, twice) the tanks are drained for cleaning, and the dolphins can do nothing but wait for the water they so desperately need to survive to reappear. Workers empty the tanks, scrub away the algae, hose everything down, then refill the tank.

Chinese photographer Huang-Ju Chen captured the heartbreaking scene. In the photo, we see the dolphin lying on the cold floor, practically lifeless. He wrote, “I was shocked at how the staff ignored the dolphin and didn’t seem to be in any hurry to refill the pool.”

This image reveals just one reality of what life in captivity looks like for marine animals. These extremely intelligent beings – with brains quite a bit larger than a human’s, in terms of weight and volume – have incredible emotional abilities, understand complex problems, and communicate. Despite this, they are subjected to a life in a tank, with nowhere to escape. This usually leads to unnatural conflict with other cetaceans, and stereotypic behaviors such as swimming in circles repetitively, establishing pecking orders, and lying motionless at the surface or on the aquarium floor for relatively long periods of time. Dolphins have also been known to slam themselves against the sides of tanks. In absolute desperation, these animals can also choose to consciously stop breathing and end their own lives.

With this knowledge in hand, it’s clearer than ever that a life on display, for marine animals, is no life at all.

What Can You Do to End this Cruelty?

  • Don’t support marine parks. Take a pledge to not purchase tickets from marine parks and sharing this message with family, friends, and colleagues.

  • Sign  petitions for cetaceans’ freedom and the end of breeding programs.

  • Watch the documentary Blackfish (if you haven’t already) to learn more.

  • Share this post and spread the word through social media!

Image Source: Huang-Ju Chen/Facebook