WILD vs CAPTIVE DOLPHINS





Range:  A wild dolphin can swim up to 160km per day, dive to depths of 100m and swim at speeds of 40km per hour.

  • In captivity a dolphin is consigned to a tiny pool often with several other dolphins with no opportunity to escape. 

Society: Family is everything to a dolphin. A calf will stay with its mother between 3 and 6 years, during this time it will learn the pod's language, hunting habits and home range. Mothers and daughters generally stay in the same pods for life. Adult sons will move away so in-breeding does not occur in the wild. (This is not so for orcas where adult sons stay with their mothers for their entire lives.)

  • Very seldom are dolphins in a natural pod. Given that they have specific family language this is like being put in a room with a bunch of strangers. Separating a calf from its mother is stressful and emotionally cruel.

Food: Dolphins are not natural scavengers which means that they hunt live prey. They do not drink so depend on fresh food for their water intake. Dolphins will feed 24 hours a day if necessary and available.

  • In captivity dolphins are fed dead, often previously frozen fish, this loses water and nutritional value so often food must be supplemented by vitamins and water.  Many parks also give their animals sedatives and antacids to counter stress. Feeding will only take place during opening hours.

Habitat: Dolphins use echolocation to explore their world, they have a keen sense of hearing. They spend 80% of their lives deep below the surface, protected from the sun.

  • A tank or even a sea pen in no way compares to the stimulation of the wild. Noise travels four times faster in water than air and most captive environments are noisy. Pool water is clear and shallow, artificially salinated and often chlorinated with the result that captive dolphins can suffer sunburn, corneal clouding, dehydration, stress induced pox and pulmonary diseases.

Health: There is no denying that the natural environment of the ocean is not as healthy as it should be but a pod can escape and has a huge range in which to survive. Wild dolphins on average live for about 20-25 years.

  • There are numerous accounts of early death, calf mortality, injuries, illnesses and stress related conditions in marine parks. Repetitive behaviours, forced routines, frequent and constant human contact, ill-matched pool mates, young and frequent breeding are all par for the course in captivity and result in average lifespans of 10 years. 

Exploitation: Any wild animal in a natural habitat if left alone will make choices based on instinct, knowledge and avoidance of danger. Humans impact this enormously.

  • For a captive cetacean there is very little choice. No choice on habitat, water quality, proximity to other dolphins or humans, food, behaviour, mates, pod members or simply whether to perform or not - after all, food is often the reward for behaving as humans require.  


This is the ultimate cruelty for animals of such intelligence and emotion.