Durban - Ban Animal Trading South Africa (BAT) protested outside uShaka Marine World as part of a worldwide protest against marine mammals in captivity recently.
BAT held its sixth Empty the Tanks demonstration to urge members of the public not to attend dolphin shows.
“We feel that keeping marine mammals in captivity is cruel and unethical,” said Prathna Singh of BAT.
Empty the Tanks started in January 2013 after its founder, Rachel Carbary, witnessed dolphin captures and slaughters in Taiji, Japan.
The organisation creates awareness and educates the public about animal exploitation, and is calling for an end to animal exploitation.
“BAT asks people not to support dolphin shows and anything that uses dolphins in captivity for entertainment.
“If people do not support this, then there won’t be a demand for it. Then those dolphins can be retired to sanctuaries or, in certain situations, released into the wild.”
She said they had extensively read marine biologists’ papers on dolphins kept in captivity.
“Marine biologists have said dolphins use echolocation to distinguish objects. With a dolphin being in a tank, you can imagine it is quite unnatural .”
Ann Kunz, uShaka Marine World Sea World spokesperson, said Sea World’s dolphin show played an important role in the communication of its conservation message.
“Our research has shown that for many visitors, the dolphin presentation is where they hear about and best recall conservation messages, and our mission is to inspire guests to care for the oceans and the marine animals,” Kunz said.
She said the dolphin show was both entertaining and educational.
“The dolphins also meet guests, which creates an empathetic connection between the dolphins and the audience.”
Kunz said there was no question that dolphins were sensitive to noise, but “they are not sensitive to the same noise levels or sounds that we hear”.
“Their hearing range is quite different and the types of sounds that affect dolphins are different to what affects us. We have measured the sound generated by the dolphin presentation, both in and out of the water, and found it is not a concern,” she said.
She said the dolphins at uShaka lived in the very best conditions it could provide, which were based on international practice and the accumulated knowledge from 42 years of experience.
Betty Khutshwane, on holiday from Rustenberg, was the lucky guest who met one of the dolphins during a show.
“It was so perfect,” Khutshwane said. “We don’t get to see dolphins and it was my first experience so I enjoyed everything.”
She said she would be sad if there was an end to dolphin shows.
When she was growing up, she believed dolphins to be the nicest mammals “because people would say dolphins would save you if you were in trouble at sea”.