Jayanthi Natarajan, the Indian Minister of Environment and Forests, has announced that captive dolphin facilities will not be allowed in India, leaving dolphin advocates hopeful that an official ban will be put in place.
There are currently no facilities in India that house captive dolphins, but there are there are several proposals to establish facilities for marine mammals from Maharashtra, Delhi, Kerala, Goa, Gujarat, Andamans and Lakshadweep that won’t just promote animal cruelty, but will threaten sensitive coastal areas, according to the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO).
More than 23,000 people signed the petition asking the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to help stop the continued exploitation of dolphins. In January, the AWBI acted by issuing an advisory to all state governments against granting permission for dolphinariums, citing health risks and high mortality rates among captive dolphins. The decision not to allow anyone to bring dolphins in for public or private display, performing, education or research made doing so a violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
“All types of studies have shown that these animals, after capture, are under a very high level of stress,” S. Chinny Krishna, the board’s vice-chairman, told the New York Times. “A wild animal belongs in the wild. That’s why they’re called wild animals – these are not domestic animals.”
He added that these types of exhibits exist purely for making money and serve no educational purpose.
Dolphin advocates believe that Natarajan’s announcement is a significant step in improving attitudes towards dolphins and dolphin welfare and hope that India will legislate an official ban on captive cetaceans.
We know by now that these complex, highly intelligent and social animals don’t do well in captivity. India’s one attempt at keeping captive dolphins in Chennai in the 1990s resulted in the deaths of three imported dolphins within months of the facility opening.
Many now believe that a full ban on dolphins in captivity will also help those in the wild by closing another market for captive dolphins. Some believe that the global captivity industry is a main force behind the horrors of dolphin slaughter that the award-winning documentary The Cove exposed in Taiji, Japan and that without profits from live dolphins, these drive hunts would end.
From The Cove’s Ric O’Barry in the Huffington Post:
There are other places in the world that have enacted anti-captivity legislation, such as Brazil, Croatia and Costa Rica. But an outright ban in India would set a strong precedent that would tell dolphin dealers and greedy industry people dolphin abuse is not acceptable. India must ensure that the captivity industry knows the tide is turning in favor of treating dolphins with the respect they deserve as thinking, feeling, emotional beings.
Hopefully, India will join other countries that have stepped up to stop the exploitation of captive cetaceans and make a ban official. Meanwhile, please avoid places that keep captive cetaceans. The only reason they continue to do so is because it’s profitable.
To learn more about how to help dolphins in captivity, visit Save Japan Dolphins.
Update (5.20.13): India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests took their strong words a step further today, announcing that dolphinariums are fully banned. Thank you, India, for enforcing this progressive view of animal rights!
Photo credit: Thinkstock