Unnatural behaviour captive dolphins exhibit

August 31 2018

Dolphins are perfectly evolved to live and flourish in their wild ocean home, not within the confines of a tank or artificial lagoon.

Here are nine unnatural things that captive dolphins do:

1. Poking their head above water: Captive dolphins spend up to 80% of their time at the surface of the water seeking scraps of food and attention. This is in direct contrast to wild dolphins who spend 80% of their time below the surface of the water playing, hunting and exploring.

2. Beaching themselves as part of the show so that visitors can pet or kiss them: If left in this position for an extended period, a dolphin's immense weight on land would slowly crush its internal organs. Captive dolphins have been trained to ignore their natural instincts.

3. Vocalising for food rewards, or…

4. Nodding their head as if to say "yes" or "no", or…

5. Offering "handshakes", or…

6. Waving at the audience with their pectoral fins: Dolphins are trained through food deprivation. When they successfully perform any of these tricks, they are rewarded with scraps of fish.

7. Swimming in circles, or…

8. Constantly peering through the fences, or…

9. Floating listlessly on the surface of the water: These behaviours indicate that the animal is bored and psychologically stressed. Wild dolphins rarely lie still and with the entire ocean at their disposal.

If you love dolphins, see these amazing animals in the wild – where they belong.

Read about our research on the problem of keeping marine animals in captivity >

Image credit: World Animal Protection/Rachel Ceretto

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