Sign up for our Free email Newsletter
and get all the latest wildlife news!

Browse Old Articles


Spanish public say 'NO' to captive dolphins

05/08/2012 14:43:25

Orca at Loro Parque, Spain. BFF

More than 9 out of 10 Spanish citizens want a ban on keeping dolphins in captivity. A massive 87% believe that dolphins are ‘happier' in the wild.

July 2012. International NGOs from across Europe launched ‘SOS Delfines', a campaign aimed at convincing the Spanish Government to phase-out the country's captive dolphin facilities and raising greater public awareness of the plight of captive dolphins in entertainment-focused marine parks.

Spain has the largest number of captive dolphin facilities in the European Union, with 90 dolphins, 2 beluga whales and 6 orcas in 11 facilities. The majority are located in popular tourist resorts such as Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and the Canary Islands, as well as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga. Licensed as ‘zoos' in Spain, these facilities are required by EU law to conserve biodiversity, educate the public about the animals and their natural attributes and maintain their animals in suitable conditions that meet their needs.

Captive Dolphin Facts:

  • Comprehensive scientific studies into the effect of captivity on dolphins have implied that confinement is detrimental to their welfare. Dolphins are very intelligent, self-aware animals. The stress of confinement may result in behavioural abnormalities, illness, lowered resistance to disease and premature death.
  • Wild dolphins are far-ranging, fast-moving, deep-diving predators. Captive dolphins can never achieve this freedom of movement.
    Captive dolphins are often held in small, barren tanks. Captive environments are a tiny fraction of the size of wild ranges and most countries do not even have enforced minimum enclosure size for captive cetaceans.
  • Captive dolphins are not able to perform their natural foraging behaviour. Wild dolphins spend a large amount of their time hunting and eat a wide variety of prey. In captivity they have no option but to eat dead fish.
    Captive dolphins are kept in unnatural social groups. This can cause aggression and psychological distress, with health consequences including loss of appetite and gastric ulcers. Wild bottlenose dolphins live in ever-changing social groups, often characterised by dispersal and migration. The captive environment is fundamentally unable to provide for these complex social opportunities. 
  • Dolphins can be highly aggressive towards members of their own species. In particular, male bottlenose dolphins often fight and have been known to knock one another unconscious. Captive social groupings make it impossible for a dolphin to escape from aggressive companions. 
  • Captivity increases health risks. Mortality in captive dolphins is often linked to immunosuppression and increased susceptibility to infection and disease, caused by the constant stress of confinement and unnatural social groupings.

Daniel Turner, spokesperson for the Born Free Foundation, ‘SOS Delfines' UK partner, explained: "Although the campaign is primarily aimed at the Spanish public and Government, the millions of British tourists who visit Spain each year have an important role to play. We are asking the British public to vote with their feet and to avoid captive dolphin facilities during their holidays in Spain this summer."

A lack of mental stimulation, stress and a variety of health and welfare problems
Turner continued; "There is much scientific evidence indicating that marine mammals in captivity suffer considerably due to inappropriate living conditions, a lack of mental stimulation, stress and a variety of health and welfare problems. Born Free is convinced that once people understand how seriously captivity compromises the welfare of dolphins, the public will no longer pay good money to visit such attractions."

Dolphins (which include orca, the largest member of the dolphin family) travel as much as 160 km a day in the wild, and live in social groups of between three and 30 related individuals, known as pods. In captivity, the situation is very different. Captive dolphins are often unrelated and are compelled to live in sterile, chemically-controlled tanks, a tiny fraction of the size of their wild range where they are denied the life choices (where to go, what to eat and who to associate with) that they would enjoy in their natural environment.

A 2011 survey of Spanish public opinion revealed that few people support the captive dolphin industry. In fact, an impressive 77% of those surveyed are currently against the keeping of dolphins in captivity for public display and an overwhelming 92% would favour banning the capture and confinement of dolphins. Of those questioned, 87% believe dolphins are ‘happier' in the wild. The IPSOS Survey, commissioned by NGOs FAADA and One Voice, also found that few people were aware that captive dolphins suffer from depression, stress, and even early mortality. SOS Delfines aims to encourage greater appreciation of these problems and bring about an end to the exploitation of captive dolphins for human ‘entertainment'.

Jennifer Berengueras, coordinator of SOS Delfines and spokesperson for FAADA: "FAADA and our partners are calling on the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment to respect public opinion and phase-out of the keeping of dolphins in captivity. The science is clear: these animals are highly intelligent and should not be confined, humiliated and made to perform demeaning, circus-style shows. Surely they deserve greater respect? Please visit , read the facts and sign our Petition to end this exploitation."

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

To post a comment you must be logged in.

New user? Register here


Click join and we will email you with your password. You can then sign on and join the discussions right away.