Nothing that happens to dolphins in a tiny tank has conservation value

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 January, 2012, 12:00am


How can Ocean Park possibly claim that the behaviour dolphins are made to display in its shows is natural ('Ocean Park urged to end dolphin 'circus'', January 1)?

What is natural about swimming around endlessly in a concrete tank?

While Ocean Park's executive director for zoological operations and education, Suzanne Gendron, is correct to say that dolphins swim fast, this is hardly the whole truth.

They also swim far and wide, covering dozens of miles a day if they so desire - a desire or even a need that is denied by captive facilities.

Anything that happens in a tiny tank at the command, or as Ms Gendron prefers to say 'cues', of humans, is unnatural behaviour and has no conservation value whatsoever.

Perhaps Ocean Park could take a lesson from the people at Hong Kong's own Noah's Ark, who are using some very creative (multimedia) technology to get their message across. Or perhaps they would like to visit our own wild Chinese white dolphins to see some natural behaviour, which will probably not resemble anything seen in a tank.

I say 'probably' because the beauty of wild animals is that they act spontaneously and every sighting is different and uncontrolled by humans.

Furthermore, if Ocean Park's conservation message has been so successful among its millions of paying customers, one would have expected there to be rather more awareness about the potentially disastrous effects on our local species of mega projects such as the third runway and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, but this has not been the case.

Perhaps it is not, then, the case that dolphins jumping through hoops 'strengthen connections to nature' after all.

When Samuel Hung of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society says, 'Their behaviour is completely distorted and sends a wrong image', one has to wonder if he is talking about the captives or captors at Ocean Park.

Several countries, such as Britain, have had no captive dolphin shows for some 20 years. Why can't Hong Kong move with the times?

Janet Walker, Hong Kong Dolphinwatch