Thursday, November 24, 2005

Dolphin export ban...a great step!

OCEAN Care congratulates the government of the Solomon Islands for its ban on dolphin export and urges the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre to free the dolphins it currently keeps at Gavutu. Free ranging, highly developed and socially oriented marine mammals - such as dolphins and whales - should not be kept in captivity. They belong to the open ocean. Because of the special physiology and life history of cetaceans (air breathing mammals that live exclusively in water), ensuring the safe capture and live transport of these species is a particularly difficult and responsible undertaking.

Survivorship data indicate that many cetaceans do not adapt well to capture, live transport and a life in captivity. Morbidity or fatalities, which may occur some months following transfer from the wild (or following transfer between captive facilities), may in some cases be attributed to the stress and trauma of transfer and associated acclimation. A study by Small and DeMaster on the acclimation to captivity of two marine mammal species (bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions), revealed that the acclimation time for bottlenose dolphins transferred between captive facilities, was the same as the acclimation time when these animals were first transferred from the wild.

This study also noted: “Based on the results from the two species, a 60-day acclimation period is recognized as a distinct interval of relatively high mortality that should be treated separately from long-term survival estimates when evaluating husbandry practices of oceanaria and zoos.” Therefore, transfer between facilities, especially when coupled with long-distance travel, presents serious cause for concern. Viewing cetaceans in the wild differs fundamentally to watching them performing tricks, or swimming around featureless tanks.

Most whale-watching activities endeavour to operate without detriment to the species or individual and many offer a naturalist to provide interpretation for the customers about the species and environment they witness. They are operated within the species’ habitat, with the added reward to the viewer of seeking out the animals in their own environment. This provides opportunities for greater understanding of ecosystems conservation, in addition to learning about the specific threats faced by the species and details of their natural behaviour and life cycles.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"