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January 16, 2013

Victory for Dolphins: India Moves to End Captivity

Humane Society International/India

  • Dolphins should remain free. Jennifer Boyer

Update, May 8, 2013: Indian Environment and Forest Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told Hindustan Times, “We will not allow dolphinariums.” HSI is cautiously optimistic, but we stress that the minister’s words must still be put into action with legislation.

As part of HSI’s campaign to end captive display of whales and dolphins, we keep our ears to the ground for proposals for new exhibits (dolphinariums) around the world. Three such proposals recently surfaced in India, but thankfully, the country’s Animal Welfare Board has just moved to scuttle them.

Traumatic capture; early death

Dolphinariums in Asia often acquire dolphins and whales from the wild, including from the brutal drive fishery of Japan. The animals are traumatized, taken from their natural surroundings and families, shipped to foreign countries and subjected to a life of stress and confinement, with little opportunity to exercise their instincts.

India’s only brush with displaying dolphins was in the late 1990s at Chennai’s Dolphin City exhibit, where four dolphins imported from Bulgaria died within a few months.

Arguments heard

The Animal Welfare Board of India was convinced by the evidence we and our allies (the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, Wild Life Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre and the Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project) presented of stressful captures, barren concrete tanks, high mortality and low birth rates, and abnormal—even dangerous—animal behavior, along with injuries to participants in “swim with” programs.

Accordingly, the Board issued an advisory to all state governments against granting permission for dolphinariums.

A rising trend

Several countries, including Costa Rica, Chile, and Croatia, have banned dolphin display, while others, such as the United Kingdom and Brazil, have regulated them so strictly that it is too expensive to operate them.

India now joins this progressive group of nations in moving to end the display and performance of dolphins, outdated practices with no place in the 21st century.

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