Robot Dolphins Could Replace Suffering Captives

Robot Dolphins Could Replace Suffering Captives

It’s easy to understand why we’re so drawn to dolphins, but our curiosity and desire to be near them has caused immeasurable suffering for individuals held in captivity and exploited in programs that allow people to swim with them. Now, however, one company is solving this problem by creating robotic dolphins to replace living dolphins who are used and abused in aquariums and marine parks around the world. 

The life-sized, robotic bottlenose dolphin is the brainchild of Edge Innovations, and is designed specifically to address the ethical quandaries represented by dolphin captivity. Dolphins, who are highly intelligent, social and far-ranging animals, are routinely captured from the wild, continually bred using invasive artificial insemination techniques and held in conditions that cause chronic stress, disease and premature deaths. 

So far, people have reported being unable to tell the difference between a living and robotic dolphin. And although the current price tag is high for a robot dolphin, coming in at around $26 million, one corporation in China already committed to using robotic dolphins instead of living ones. 


“The marine park industry has had falling revenues for over a decade due to ethical concerns and the cost of live animals, yet the public hunger to learn about and experience these animals is still as strong as ever,” said Roger Holzberg, one of the designers of the robotic dolphin. “We believe that it’s time to reimagine this industry and that this approach can be more humane, and more profitable at the same time.”

Public pressure is an incredibly powerful force, and is increasingly impacting the marine park industry as the years go by. The Vancouver Aquarium in Canada announced a permanent closure of its dolphin and whale tanks, and a federal ban on captivity was enacted shortly afterward. California has enacted a ban on keeping orcas captive, and SeaWorld — an industry leader — announced it will be phasing out orcas from all of its locations across the country.

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