Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release Marine Species Back Into Their Natural Environment - The Only Circumstance Where They Should be Held Captive
You may recall in 2008, IDA reported about a juvenile female whale shark rescued by the Atlantis Hotel off the coast in Dubai. IDA supporters along with local environmental and animal protection groups called for her immediate release in light of the hotel’s reputation for exploiting animals for profit. Last Thursday, the Atlantis Hotel announced they had fitted her with a satellite tag and released the juvenile female whale shark known as “Sammy” into the Persian Gulf.
The hotel stated that the reason behind their decision to release her was because of the outpouring of local and international support calling for her freedom. Her welfare, inability to forage, or thrive in the confines of captivity are among the many reasons why pelagic species (especially the world’s largest fish species) do not belong in hotels or any other captive enterprise. While Sammy is back in the wild, other animals at the hotel are not so lucky. In 2007, despite wide spread international protest, the hotel imported wild caught dolphins from the Solomon Islands, flew them 30 hours to exploit them in their ever cruel, swim-with-dolphin attraction.
The only circumstance where marine species should be held in captivity is when they are injured or sick and need care in captivity before they can be returned to the wild. Helping them to heal after their rescue, build strength under rehabilitation and then releasing them back to the region they were found, contributes to the survival of the species in the wild. SeaWorld is a prime example of an establishment that gained credibility by employing scientists who developed a noble record of rescuing stranded, sick and injured marine mammals and rehabilitating them to survive in their natural environment. This activity was consistent with their mission statement “To work with purpose and passion on behalf of wildlife habitats worldwide, encouraging sustainable solutions through support of species research, animal rescue and rehabilitation and conservation education.” Obviously, they no longer live by this mission and infact work against it by capturing animals from the wild, holding animals captive in cramped, artificial pens and forcing them to perform unnatural stunts for food and for amusement of people and commercial gain. SeaWorld has 50 venues in Japan alone.
One of Sea World’s worst offenses is their determination to hold on to Tillikum, a wild caught male orca from Iceland. His emotional welfare is so poor he continues to kill people. SeaWorld justifies his enslavement as well as other marine mammals with buzz words like “conservation” and unsubstantiated phrases such as “we are contributing to the conservation of the species” in response to protests from people about Sea World’s use of marine mammals for entertainment and profit. Rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing animals back into their natural environment works truly towards conservation of animals.
SeaWorld needs to stop capturing marine mammals, and refocus their work back towards fulfilling their mission statement. As a first step, they must immediately discontinue their demeaning circus-style shows with animals. They also need to stop the captive breeding of marine species like orcas because they cannot be held humanely in captivity. It is paramount that they begin the rehabilitation process of the individual captive animals and prepare for their release back to the regions of the world from they were originally caught.