Captive dolphins at Ocean Park have no educational value

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 July, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 July, 2015, 12:01am

I refer to the report, "Activists step up call to free the dolphins" (June 28).

Ocean Park argues that "dolphins fare no better in the wild than they do in tanks" ("Views differ on meaning of 'animal welfare'", June 28) and compares the living conditions of its captive bottlenose dolphins to the pressures the Chinese white dolphin faces in Hong Kong waters. In the wild, bottlenose dolphins inhabit the vast Indian and Pacific tropical and subtropical waters, far from the threats Chinese white dolphins face locally.

Whether captured from the wild or bred in captivity, it is not a discussion about the best care standards the dolphins receive.

If they cannot swim hundreds of kilometres, hunt for their own live food or swim in their own social groups, no "best care" standard gives them this freedom. The social environment of captive marine mammals is severely limited. No captive facility can adequately simulate the vast ocean or provide for their complex behavioural needs.

Ocean Park misleads the public by having marine mammals in captivity for human entertainment, education and conservation.

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are not endangered, they don't need to be held captive or bred in captivity for conservation purposes. They certainly aren't educating the public as people do not receive an accurate picture of a species, especially a cetacean, from captive representatives. In reality, they teach people that the capture and exploitation of these intelligent and complex creatures is acceptable. They send a message that nature is ours to exploit, for a reason as frivolous as entertainment.

A global establishment like Ocean Park should understand what is real (in the wild) and what is not (in captivity), and should become a role model to other marine parks and phase out its breeding and capture of dolphins. Ocean Park needs to gain a high level of trust from residents to inspire and protect Hong Kong's coastlines and ocean ecosystems in the natural world, its remaining 61 Chinese white dolphins and the 84 species of corals, rather than call itself conservationist by having a captive breeding programme and holding dolphin entertainment shows.

There is tremendous global public support for having no dolphins in captivity at Ocean Park.

We need to look at ourselves and decide the time has come to view captivity of whales and dolphins as part of our history and not a tragic part of our future.

Estelle Davies, naturalist, Ocean Futures Society