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ISSUE 23 ARCHIVE - DOLPHIN DILEMMA

Eleni Evangelinos

Hi, I'm Eleni, I'm 17 and I'm studying English literature, Psychology and Art at A-Level. I love to write, investigate and I'm extremely curious (some would say, nosey) which is why I am hoping to go into journalism in the future! I wrote this article because I've always thought the debate about animal captivity was fascinating. One of the closest instances where people will come first hand with the issue is in marine parks and resorts when offered the opportunity to swim with dolphins. I believe it's everyone's right to make an informed decision on the subject and consider the needs of the animals.

Swimming with dolphins, whether it be at a marine park or an aquarium, is a popular and increasingly more accessible opportunity for families on holiday. However, is it really ethical to keep these animals in captivity for the sole purpose of being able to entertain humans? It is important to consider both the positives and negatives, as many people are unaware of the overall consequences on these intelligent, socially adept creatures.

Before diving straight into the issues surrounding swimming with dolphins, there are some definite positive aspects to this type of ecotourism to consider. The most obvious being that, no-one can deny, it is a fascinating and surreal experience which can be educational and encourage an interest in nature, particularly for children. It can open the opportunity to talk about sustainability, conservation initiatives and legislation, having long lasting, positive effects for our endangered species.

Also, due to recent research, scientists have discovered Dolphin Assisted Therapy. This is where people with mental or physical disabilities attend sessions where they swim and interact with dolphins in the hope that it helps show signs of improvement for their condition. There has been noted to be a range of benefits such as an improved immune system, self-control, awareness, and feelings of compassion and self-confidence. Not to mention, the effects of even swimming in salt water are significantly beneficial to your health and skin, such as helping to detoxify the body and promote cellular regeneration. Bromide relieves muscle pain and soreness, sodium boosts immunity to illness and magnesium contributes to a healthy nervous system.

Positives aside, there is a strong argument for why the negative impacts on dolphins, outweigh the benefits for humans. Dolphins can often have dramatically shortened life in captivity. It can be distressing for them to be captured and taken from their families in the wild to live in artificial conditions where they cannot roam free and hunt.

The stressful circumstances of their confinement and the high pollution levels in many resorts often results in behavioural abnormalities, illness, and lowered resistance to disease, sadly resulting in death. Furthermore, dolphins frequently have collisions with swimmers; fingernails, jewellery and carelessness can damage their delicate skin leaving permanent marks.

So what are the alternatives? There is an abundance of other ways to observe dolphins in their natural environment with little disruption to them. Dolphin or whale watching excursions allow you to see them up close and educate yourself at the same time, while supporting ecotourism in the area.

Alternatively, donating to charities dedicated to supporting dolphins and whales, or adopting one yourself allows you to be proactive in a positive cause, to help the species rather than hinder.

Your money would be used for improving sanctuaries to extend the lifespan of dolphins currently in captivity, regulating aquariums and legislators to advocate for increases in living conditions for the dolphins, and even working towards a point where we can end captivity once and for all. Far more worthwhile and rewarding than a half hour swim and a selfie with a dolphin for Instagram!

O'Three
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