Wild dolphins

A win for dolphins! Virgin Holidays ends sales of captive dolphin entertainment


The travel giant will stop all sales by July 31, 2019, setting an amazing example which we hope other travel companies will follow

Why this matters

Simply put, a lifetime in captivity is no life at all for dolphins. They are wildlife, not entertainers.

In the wild, cetaceans like dolphins travel vast distances at great speed, dive deep into the ocean for food and live in large social groups. There isn’t a facility on earth that can simulate these conditions and give these wild animals the life they deserve.

Virgin Holidays’ commitment moves us closer to a future where the only place that people will be able to see these magnificent animals is in the wild or at genuine seaside sanctuaries. We are very pleased to have been involved in their final decision on this issue, following previous steps taken in partnership with World Cetacean Alliance and advocated for by Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Dolphins swimming in the wild

A billion-dollar industry

Tragically, there are over 2,000 dolphins in captivity around the world, more than two-thirds of the total number of cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) currently in captivity.

Dolphins used for entertainment is a billion-dollar industry, where the travel industry and the facilities they sell, or promote, have turned animal suffering into a lucrative trade.

This industry relies on myths and misinformation to hide the dolphins’ suffering from consumers:

  • Dolphin attractions are promoted as being educational, but captive dolphins do not behave like wild dolphins because of the extremely unnatural conditions they’re forced to endure
  • Less than half of dolphinaria provide any information on conservation or provide educational materials for schools or children, according to one study
  • The few facilities that claim to contribute to conservation spend less than 1% of the revenue on such projects.

Captive dolphins in Indonesia living in cramped, unnatural conditions. Photo by Andi Sucirta

The case against marine mammals in captivity (CAMMIC)

Earlier this year we released latest edition of the CAMMIC report, detailing exactly why dolphins, whales and other marine mammals should not be forced to live in captivity.

You can read more about the report here.

A clear message

Dr Jan-Schmidt Burbach, our Global Wildlife Advisor says: “We are genuinely thrilled that Virgin Holidays is ending the sale and promotion of all captive whale and dolphin attractions. We hope this very clear message will signal a shift in the holiday industry.

“We know that the majority of people who engage in animal activities when they’re on holiday do so because they love wild animals, unaware of the suffering that goes on behind the scenes.

This is why it’s encouraging to see Virgin Holidays look to strengthen and support its wild whale and dolphin excursions, which puts the needs of the animals first, as well as investing in solutions for captive cetaceans, such as coastal sanctuaries.

We look forward to working with Virgin Holidays in the future as it continues to develop its responsible wildlife initiatives.”


Photo: CW AZORES/Justin Hart

The tide is turning

While thousands of marine mammals are still suffering in captivity, announcements like this from the travel industry are a welcome glimmer of hope.

As well as changes from the travel industry, we were thrilled that, earlier this year, Canada passed a ban on keeping dolphins, whales and porpoises for entertainment.

This is part of a global movement towards better treatment of these wild animals, which includes the nations of Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK.

Sign up to our newsletter below for all the latest wildlife news.

A lifetime in captivity is no life at all for dolphins. They are wildlife, not entertainers.

More about