L’élevage du dauphin domestique en batterie
Pour rappel, la naissance de Tiqa, le bébé de Qila, à l’Aquarium de Vancouver, fut acclamée par toute la presse en extase en juillet 2008. Pas de chance ! Le 9 septembre 2011, l’enfant, lors d’un accouchement déjà difficile, mourait de pneumonie.
Bizarre pour un béluga, pourtant habitué aux coups de froid…. C’était le troisième béluga né captif à mourir à Vancouver.
As for the last of the law’s three great alibis, the « art of cetacean husbandry » – the absence of which John L. Adams lamented way back in 1972 – it is scarcely nearer to realisation than ever before. Indeed, it has never been a feasible proposition for most oceanaria simply because of cost. As long ago as 1977, a report by specialists concluded that producing second generation captive dolphins would cost over $1 million with a starting colony of one male and twelve females.
Even the majority of the wealthier oceanaria in the USA and Japan have paid little more than lip service to captive breeding, partly because of their overeagerness to exchange the circus image for the more respectable scientific and educational credibility of the marine zoo. With typically uninspired leadership, instead of creating viable breeding colonies of a single species, and optimising their facilities to go some way towards meeting the animals’ social needs, they set about mimicking the long outmoded menagerie collections of early 20th century, emphasising the size and range of the animal collection, and fleshing-out the cetacean exhibits with seals, sea-lions and penguins.
Japan has experimented with Gill’s bottlenose and Risso’s dolphin, while South Africa has kept the Indian Ocean bottlenose and the Dusky dolphin. With pioneering spirit, the USA has displayed the Amazon river dolphin, the Commerson dolphin, the Pacific white-sided dolphin as well as beluga whales, pilot whales, and the common dolphin.
While Pilleri cites a 90% death rate of young at pregnancy, proponents of the industry claim that as standards have improved so have the survival figures for newborn dolphins. That may be true in the USA but elsewhere around the world, the statistics continue to be bleak. The first known captive birth – to a harbour porpoise « rescued » from a fishing net – took place in 1914 at Brighton Aquarium. The calf – conceived in the wild as so many captive births continue to be to this very day – died immediately. That inauspicious event was to herald a veritable epidemic of miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths in the world’s dolphinaria, plagued both by the behavioural problems of the animals themselves, and the incompetence or inexperience of staff. Thus, according to the International Zoo Yearbook, from 1965 to 1986, 134 dolphins of various species were born in captivity around the world, of which 106 died.
Sometimes, the temptation to deceive the public with a ‘phantom’ pregnancy is irresistible, a fact attested to by Dr Margaret Klinowska in her government-commissioned report, A Review of Dolphinaria: « ….’pregnancy’ sometimes covered other reasons for failure to perform, » she notes sardonically, « for example: required elsewhere, incompatibility, illness or death. » But Professor Paul Schauenberger remains unimpressed by such criticisms. Up to the present day, he claims, approximately 180 dolphins have been born in captivity, and survival rates have improved so dramatically that the foremost dolphinaria in the USA are gradually reaching self-sufficiency. That may be good news for the wild dolphin as a species, but again, it does little for the long-term welfare of the individual animal. Indeed, one of the inherent dangers of captive breeding success is that commercial dealing in the animals would no longer be subject to international conventions governing the trade in endangered species. These have at least shown some appreciable results in curtailing the more obvious abuses of the dolphin dealing industry. With inexplicable logic, the captive-bred individual is deprived of what few rights were afforded to its wild-caught
mother as soon as it is born. With second generation animals now growing up into adulthood – neither they nor their parents ever having known the sea or ocean – it seems as though these animals, if the industry has its way, will notonly be stripped of their true identity, but eventually will have no more rights than a battery chicken or a pig on an industrial farm.
Major advances in husbandry and breeding success, concludes Schauenberger – albeit with an embarrassing dearth of evidence – heralds a promising future for the industry. In much the same way that the cat, dog, pig, sheep and goat were domesticated thousands of years ago, so today, the wild dolphin is being tamed and domesticated by homo sapiens. Declares the visionary professor: « There is no convincing and justifiable reason at all to stop experiments to tame new species. . . At some time in the future there will be farms in the sea where man will increasingly breed fish for his own consumption. Then the dolphins will play a major role. They will, if we wish it to be so, be the sheepdogs of the seas! »
Even discounting such lurid fantasies, appearances that the industry is in a state of decline at present may well be deceptive. It would probably be truer to say that after several years of being under intense siege, it is now quietly plotting its future course of action, confident that it has been able to contend with EEC Council Regulation 3626/82, with a mixture of bluff, feigned respectability, and political connections. No doubt the industry expects to be able to weather the storm of more rigorous animal welfare legislation in the same way. Some dolphinaria might go to the wall, but that is just one of the decrees of fate in a cut-throat business; the industry as a whole will survive, though not without ruthless strategy.
Part of that strategy has been aimed at dismantling Regulation 3626/82.
Behind the scenes, the European dolphin industry remonstrated, lobbied, and cajoled every influential person they could think of to convince the authorities that the regulation was suffocating them, preventing « reputable » dolphinaria from mounting breeding and scientific research programmes, and discouraging even the less reputable ones from investing in new installations.
Pressure to de-list the dolphins from Annex C1 to Annex C2 was first detected from the Netherlands – which was then also home to the dolphin industry’s lobbying organisation, the EAAM – and Britain, home of EAAM President, David Taylor. It was thus that on 7 April 1987, Dr B. M. Lensink, vice-chair of the Netherlands CITES/EEC Scientific Authority, wrote to Claus Stuffmann of the European Commission, declaring that because fifteen species of cetacean – with the bottlenose dolphin and orca whale inexplicably heading his list – « cannot be considered as threatened with extinction » the Netherlands Scientific Authority proposed to relegate them to Annex C2.
A similar confidential proposal, « adapted from a text by Dr Margaret Klinowska » was submitted in August 1988 by the UK CITES
Scientific Authority. Later that year, the influential EEC-CITES Scientific Working Group decided to recommend to the Council of Ministers the relegation of the cetacean species along the lines proposed by Lensink.
Given the current wave of public sympathy for the plight of captive dolphins, particularly in the UK, it is not surprising that such behind-the-scenes manoeuvring has been conducted with the utmost subterfuge.
The move would again render the dolphins virtually unprotected from the brutality and ruthlessness of the trade. As Appendix II animals, not even the feeble legal requirement of ‘education’ would stand in the
way. Says Pier Lorenzo Florio, director of the Italian branch of TRAFFIC: « We have our hands full even now checking-up on the legitimacy of the industry and its respect or otherwise for animal welfare. Should this measure go through, it will open the flood-gates, and we won’t have any legal means to stop it. »
Les fonctionnaires de MGM Mirage enquêtent sur la mort subite de l’un des nombreux dauphins détenus au Siegfried and Roy’ s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat en juillet 2008
Pour rappel, Siegfried et Roy, ces deux joyeux bouffons aux cheveux bouffants, tous deux fils de soldats nazis, sont de grands amateurs de félins de grande taille, au point que l’un d’eux s’et même fait bouffer la gueule par l’un de ses tigres blancs lors d’un spectacle de casino demeuré légendaire.
Sage, quant à elle, n’était qu’ élément de leur show quotidien, une pauvre petite femelle née captive qui s’est éteinte samedi dernier en matinée, sans raison apparente, selon la porte-parole du centre d’enfermement, Yvette Monet.
Sage était née dans les bassins kitch et rutilants de lumière du Casino en mai 1997.
Elle n’avait que 11 ans, ce n’était encore qu’une adolescente.
Sage est la 13ème victime morte au Casino de Las Vegas, depuis l’ouverture de ce delphinarium pour joueurs de poker en 1990, qui ne comptait alors que cinq dauphins.
Le Jardin secret des dauphins propose aujourd’hui des rencontres en bassin avec les cétacés captifs – jour et nuit – et accueille des fêtes d’anniversaire. Il peut également être loué à l’occasion d’évènements privées à l’usage des VIP ! Notons que c’est également le cas du delphinarium de Bruges.
Lettre d’Hélène O’Barry à Siegfried & Roy
Dear Siegfried & Roy,
I would like to share my concerns about your captive dolphin display.
Featuring ten bottlenose dolphins, the display at is advertised alongside the Secret Garden as « Siegfried & Roy’s Dolphin Habitat. »
« Experience Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage. And get in touch with your wild side. » These are the alluring words used to entice people to buy tickets to see the animal display. The glossy « Secret Garden » brochure shows a picture of both of you and a dolphin. The dolphin is frolicking happily in a lagoon, amidst lush jungle vegetation and exotic cats, and the idyllic picture is accompanied by the words: « You’re in their world now. »
It turns out that the reality is a far cry from the tropical-looking brochure. The ten dolphins at The Mirage are confined in a small, bleak, concrete tank. Nothing in this barren confinement even remotely resembles the dolphin’s natural world; yet the « Dolphin Habitat » is also presented to the paying audience as a « Dolphin Lagoon. »
Keeping dolphins in a gambling casino is a strange concept, and the staff at the « Dolphin Habitat » goes to great length at making the display appear « educational. » As part of that effort, they call themselves a « research and education facility. » They also stress that they don’t do dolphin shows. What they do, they say, is « interaction. » The interaction between the dolphins and their trainers, however, consists of the exact same training procedure as seen in other captive dolphin facilities around the world.
The dolphins are trained in a series of abnormal behaviors such as tail walking, targeting, airborne vocalizations, waving
their flippers, and taking their trainer for fast-speed rides around the tank. When asked how the dolphins are made to perform these acts, one of the trainers says they are all natural behaviors that dolphins do in the wild, they have just been « polished to perfection. » I can assure you that n one of these behaviors are normal for a dolphin and, as is usually the case, the dolphins are encoded through food control to perform.
Taking advantage of the dolphins’ hunger is the manipulative and controlling training method used to turn once-wild opportunistic foragers of the ocean into pets and circus clowns.
Many of the dolphins at The Mirage are the result of the facility’s captive dolphin breeding program. Breeding dolphins in captivity is used by the dolphin captivity industry worldwide to sanitize the confinement of dolphins, as if these dolphins do not possess the same physiological needs as their wild co-species and are therefore suitable for lifelong confinement in an unnatural environment. But dolphins that are born in captivity are born with the exact same physiological characteristics as those of their wild co-species. Confinement in a tank violates a dolphin’s most fundamental behavioral requirements, regardless of whether
the dolphin was captured from the wild or born in captivity. Just one example: Dolphins are sound oriented. They communicate producing a large spectrum of sounds in the form of clicks and whistles. Furthermore, they constantly send out bursts of sounds of many different frequencies to explore their ocean environment. With reflected sound, called echo location or sonar, dolphins can « see » elements that are invisible for other animals — including humans — that are sight oriented, depending on reflected light for vision. This is how dolphins searching for food can easily detect a fish that is hiding under the sand. The use of sonar is as important to dolphins as eyesight to
humans, and in nature they rely on their sensitive sensory sense in almost every aspect of their daily lives.
The dolphins at your « Dolphin Habitat » are severely restricted in using their sonar. They can’t use it to catch live fish, as they are fed dead fish as food rewards. Neither can they put it to full use to explore their underwater world, because there isn’t much to explore in a barren, concrete tank. They certainly can’t use it to navigate, because they aren’t going anywhere.
When I asked one of the tour guides what kind of research the facility does do, the answer was: « We research artificial insemination in dolphins and the dolphins’ use of echolocation. » I can’t help but wonder how one researches the dolphin’s use of echolocation in a concrete tank where the dolphins’ sense of sonar is rendered virtually useless. Indeed, sensory deprivation is probably one of the most damaging aspects of dolphin captivity. This is true whether the dolphin was captured from the wild or born in captivity.
The dolphins born at The Mirage have been confined within the walls of a concrete tank all their lives. They will never swim in a straight line for as long as they desire; nor will they ever be able to use their speed, intelligence, sonar, and sense of cooperation to catch live fish. By human design these sonic, free-ranging marine mammals, who would normally swim up to 40 miles a day, are confined to a very small space where, for the rest of their lives, they will have to satisfy a never-ending line of people demanding casual amusement. They will never know what it means to be a real dolphin, in a dolphin’s real world – the open
sea. Dolphins born in captivity are freaks that we have created for our own amusement, and displaying them in a concrete tank represents no positive educational value. On the contrary, the « Dolphin Habitat » represents a form of bad education in that it sends the message that abusing nature is acceptable.
Like any other business, the dolphin captivity industry is based on supply and demand: As long as there is a paying audience to sustain the huge profits of this industry, dolphins will be captured from the wild and captive dolphin breeding programs will be intensified. The dolphins at The Mirage were born as part of a dolphin breeding program, simply because a large part of the public is willing to buy tickets to obtain a hands-on encounter with an exotic animal. It is important to understand that the economic success of the « Dolphin Habitat » is creating a copycat syndrome in other parts of the world. As a result, numerous violent
dolphin captures are now taking place in the Caribbean and Cuba to meet the consumers’ growing demand for a close-up encounter with dolphins.
The « Dolphin Lagoon » contains 1.5 million gallons of water and measures 22 feet at its deepest end.
But bottlenose dolphins in nature swim up to 40 miles per day are capable of diving to depths of more than 1600 feet! The dolphins at The Mirage are confined in what must seem like a teacup to them; yet — according to the advertisement — the dolphins’ « lagoon » has been made in such a way that it replicates the dolphins’ natural environment and provides a « healthy and nurturing home » for the dolphins. » What the advertisers are referring to is the artificial coral reef and sandy bottom of the
tank. But it’s all an illusion. The « coral reef » is made from acrylic and plastic, and the « sand » on the bottom of the tank is painted on. It may be esthetically pleasing to the viewers’ eye but does nothing whatsoever to stimulate the dolphins’ most important sense — their sense of sonar.
According to The Mirage, none of the dolphins were captured from the wild. A sign by the pool says:
« All the Mirage dolphins are (.) relocated here through other marine facilities. None were captured from the wild. » This is not true. According to the Marine Mammal Inventory Report (MMIR, 02/21/2003) at least three of the dolphins kept at the Mirage were captured from the wild. Two of those are now dead. (I say « at least » because two of the dolphins’ origin is listed as « unknown.)
The facility consists of three separate tanks. Two small tanks hold two dolphins each, while the so-called « research and nursing tank » holds six dolphins. I was told the dolphins are kept in accordance with breeding purposes and compatibility. The youngest dolphin is as a still unnamed male calf, born at the facility in February 2003. The dolphins kept in the two smaller tanks show clear signs of boredom, spending much time swimming in circles or sticking their heads out of the water (another abnormal dolphin behavior), hoping for a hand-out or some attention from their trainers.
I hope you will take the time to consider the following:
Dolphins have evolved over millions of years, adapting perfectly to life in the ocean. They are intelligent, social, and self-aware, exhibiting evidence of a highly developed emotional sense. The capture and lifelong confinement of dolphins separates them from the three most important aspects of their lives: Their world of sound, their natural pod-members, and their ability to swim freely. Nevertheless, the captivity of dolphins has become a billion-dollar industry. Not counting the Russian and American military dolphins, there are about a thousand captive dolphins scattered around the world. They can be found in amusement parks,
dolphin-swim programs, zoos, roadside shows, shopping centers, a discotheque – and at The Mirage gambling casino.
There are several serious environmental and ethical problems connected with the « Dolphin Habitat: »
1.. It presents animal cruelty as education and research.
2.. It creates a copycat syndrome in that it encourages other hotel owners to put dolphins on display. An example of this is Los Delfines Hotel/Casino in Lima, Peru, where dolphins are kept in a small tank in the hotel lobby.
3.. It promotes further captures of dolphins worldwide.
4.. It promotes captive breeding of dolphins, thereby adding to the list of non-releasable dolphins.
5.. It sets a president and may open the door for the establishment of more captive dolphin facilities in Las Vegas.
The educational value of dolphins in the desert:
Adding an exotic theme to the gambling casino, the dolphins at the « Dolphin Habitat » are confined in a bleak and artificial world, a world in which the daily suppression of their true nature is presented as educational.
The paying audience will never be told how dolphins are violently captured from the wild at this very moment to feed the public’s desire to see these animals up close. They will never be told about the distress that these free ranging and sonic creatures endure in their artificial world of concrete, plastic, and acrylic paint.
Since the world’s first formal dolphin show opened in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1938, hundreds of dolphins have been captured from the wild and trained to perform silly circus tricks. When the dolphins died, the captivity industry simply captured more. These are disposable dolphins for our disposable society, and to call them ambassadors is simply an obviously desperate attempt at sanitizing the exploitation of these animals.
By lending your famous name to the dolphinarium at The Mirage you signal your approval of an industry that nourishes its huge profits by capturing, confining, exploiting, and trading in dolphins.
Dolphins don’t belong in a concrete tank. They don’t belong in the desert, and they certainly don’t belong in a gambling casino. Please help us speak out against the suffering inflicted on captive dolphins and, in doing so, become a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. I hereby urge you to insist that your name is not used in connection with the captive dolphin display at The Mirage. I also urge you to encourage The Mirage to stop any further breeding of dolphins.
Regarding your collaboration with the owner of The Ringling Brothers Circus, you may find the following internet article of interest: Circus: The Cruelest Show on Earth
There is much more information on the Ringling Brothers Circus to be found on the worldwide web and based on the serious animal welfare questions raised concerning the use, breeding, confinement and training of elephants in circuses and traveling menageries, I am hoping you can clarify the following :
Before entering into a close work relationship with Kenneth Feld, did you research the living conditions of the elephants bred and kept at the Ringling Bros. Circus elephant to breeding facility in Florida and what were your findings ? Have you researched the methods used to train elephants at the Ringling Bros. Circus and what where your finding?
What are your comments to the allegations made against the circus?
I am looking forward to hearing from you regarding these urgent matters. Thank you so much for your time.