Despite the fact that various studies have shown that the best place for a wildlife animal is in their natural habitat, time and time again we we’ve witnessed just the opposite: majestic creatures being captured and kept in enclosures. Take whales and dolphins, for instance. Normally, in the wild, these animals would travel hundreds of miles per day, have the thrill of hunting for their own food, and most importantly, experience all of the different dynamics that come with being in a pod and interacting with other marine animals.
Whales and dolphins who are captured, however, are confined to tanks that are a mere fraction of the space they have in the wild – tanks that are downright criminal in comparison. While, personally, we feel that ALL tanks are equally terrible, there are some characteristics that make certain tanks worse than others. And the animal rights organization, In Defense of Animals, in a similar vein as their famous Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants List, has taken it upon themselves to also investigate and identify the Ten Worst Tanks for Dolphins and Whales, here are three from the top five on the list.
SeaWorld, San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, California; Orlando, Florida
Unsurprisingly, all three of SeaWorld’s locations nabbed the top spot. From stealing cetaceans out of the ocean to ignoring obvious signs of distress and depression, all while claiming that this behavior is “normal,” SeaWorld is hardly the conservation-based organization they lead the public to believe they are.
After a year of terrible press (much of which was spurned by the release of Blackfish), it finally seemed like SeaWorld had begun to understand how horrible their facilities were, and decided to end their orca breeding program. Unfortunately, it seems that the announcement was yet another PR spin by the park – they had not made the choice to end it, they were forced to, and more importantly, they can break the agreement at any time. Worst of all, SeaWorld doesn’t seem to have any intention of slowing down the exploitation of their marine animals. At the very same time that they decided to “eliminate” the orca performances, they opened up interactive “swim-with-the-dolphins” exhibits. Yeah … it really seems like they have these marine animals’ best interest in mind…
Marineland, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Last Chance for Animals
Imagine being put in solitary confinement for years, essentially left for dead with no one to interact with but a metal gate. For many of the animals at Marineland, this scenario is one they must deal with every day. Marineland not only has Kiska, Canada’s last captive orca, in their possession, but under their watch, all five of this sweet orca’s children have died. Kiska has also outlived all seventeen of the other orcas Marineland used to have and now must pay the price for being the sole survivor. Her physiological and psychological state has suffered tremendously over the years. She has severely worn teeth from compulsive gnawing, dorsal fin deterioration, and has shown signs of being underweight.
In addition to the heartbreaking story of Kiska, Marineland has also amassed approximately 46 beluga whales, five bottlenose dolphins, 28 black bears and approximately 500 fallow deer. The beluga population, in particular, have been kept in terrible conditions of isolation.
Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Georgia
There are several acts Georgia Aquarium has to be ashamed of. Most notably, attempting to import wild-caught beluga whales from Russia, hosting swim-with-dolphin programs, holding belugas inside an enclosed building, and shipping belugas across the country with no apparent regard for their social, psychological, and physical well-being.
In Defense of Animals even refers to the Georgia Aquarium as the “dying pool,” since three beluga whales died under their “care” between 2012 and 2015. Considering their blatant disregard for these animals’ well-being, it sadly seems that the strings of death will only continue at this marine park.
The full list and descriptions of each offense can be found on IDA’s website, but for a quick overview, here are the zoos that have made it into the IDA’s top 10:
1. SeaWorld, San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, California; Orlando, Florida
2. Marineland, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
3. Puerto Aventuras Dolphin Discovery, Mayan Rivera, Quintana Roo, Mexico
4. Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Georgia
5. Miami Seaquarium, Miami, Florida
6. Six Flags Mexico Dolphin Discovery, Mexico City, Mexico
7. Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Gulfport, Mississippi
8. Mirage Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
9. Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
10. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois
As heartbreaking as it is to see that these parks are still in existence and still causing an incredible amount of pain to marine animals around the world, it is important that we highlight them. We hope that this list will inspire these parks to finally display a bit of compassion and #EmptyTheTanks!
If the reality of marine animal captivity upsets you, the best thing you can do is raise awareness for the issue (sharing this article is a good start) as well as boycotting all facilities that keep animals captive for profit. While it can feel like the blame for these animals’ suffering is mostly out of our hands, as long as we keep giving these cruel institutions monetary support, we are partly to blame. We can all help put an end to this vicious and abusive cycle.
Image source: Tinseltown/Shutterstock