Reader’s Letter: “St. Maarten’s government should not allow dolphinarium”

POSTED: 03/6/11 10:09 PM

Dear Editor,

Plans for a new dolphinarium in St. Maarten should be referred to the paper recycle bin immediately. Dolphins, and other marine mammals for that matter, do not belong in captivity. These are intelligent, social animals whose welfare and health are severely affected when they are held in captivity and forced to entertain marine park visitors. Dolphinariums generally claim educational value, but the truth is that visitors of such commercial facilities learn absolutely nothing about the animals or their natural behavior. How can they when the conditions in which the animals are kept are a far cry from their natural environment, conditions in which they cannot even survive without medication? You can learn about dolphins and other marine animals by watching the National Geographic Channel or documentaries such as those made by the legendary Jacques Cousteau, but not by watching them perform stupid tricks.

Fortunately more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that keeping dolphins and other marine mammals in captivity for entertainment purposes is completely unacceptable. What is necessary, however, to stop this multibillion dollar industry from continuing to profit from the exploitation of these animals, and from the ignorance of people who still buy their tickets (and their lies about education, conservation and the animals’ welfare), is for governments to prohibit the capture, import, export and public display of dolphins and other marine mammals. Such bans have already been imposed by a whole host of countries. Chile and Costa Rica were among the first to do so. In other countries, authorities now refuse to issue permits for new dolphinariums. In my opinion, the St. Maarten authorities should follow these examples. At least the latter but ideally also the former.

Also, in Europe major travel companies (such as Thomas Cook) have decided to no longer promote visits or offer excursions to marine parks, due to mounting public pressure. In view of growing public awareness of the serious welfare problems animals in the (marine) entertainment industry experience, the St. Maarten government and tourist board would be wise to take this into consideration in deciding whether it is a good idea to build a new dolphinarium. But regardless of commercial interests, the exploitation of intelligent and socially complex animals such as dolphins for the entertainment of people is really a form of slavery. Dolphinariums have no place in the 21st century!

Daniëlle Hutter

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