Turks and Caicos: A Dolphin Haven or Dolphin Hell?

Turks and Caicos is a beautiful archipelago of 40 islands with fantastic wildlife. The heart and soul of the region is a wild dolphin named Jojo, who voluntarily swims with humans. So why is Turks and Caicos considering betraying Jojo’s species by opening more dolphin parks and sentencing dolphins to a life of enslavement?

The Tide is Changing (For the Worst) in Turks and Caicos

As reported in BBC, millions of tourists flock to the archipelago for the chance of a wild dolphin encounter. And the islands have always been a type of haven for wild and free dolphins: there are even laws protecting cetaceans against confinement. But the tide is changing, and dolphins are paying a high price.

Despite ethical and environmental concerns, Dolphin Cove, a Jamaica-based dolphin park, is looking to expand in Turks and Caicos. The park has proposed opening two parks and will invest millions of dollars to do so. Money talks, and dolphins doing silly and unnatural tricks sells a lot of tickets. A Sun Sentinel investigation revealed that “a single dolphin can generate $1 million a year.” That’s a lot of incentive to find legal loopholes. For instance, Lolita (“the world’s loneliest orca”) has been wasting away in an illegal tank for over four decades.

What Would Jojo Say?

Unlike Lolita, Jojo was born free, and he’s stayed that way. Jojo also has a natural curiosity about humans, and one of his best friends is a man named Dean Bernal. The pair met in the 1980s in Turks and Caicos when Bernal noticed a dolphin following him on a swim. And that dolphin — Jojo — kept following him every day. Jojo and Dean’s friendship is considered by some to be “the longest lived human-dolphin relationship in recorded history.” Their extraordinary story catapulted Jojo to worldwide fame. In 1989, Dean officially became Jojo’s warden and Jojo was named a National Treasure of Turks and Caicos. Jojo’s been acting as an ambassador for dolphins everywhere ever since.

I’m sure that Jojo would agree: captivity is no life for a cetacean. There’s no way that swimming in circles inside of a tank can compete with the hundreds of miles that dolphins are used to swimming. There’s no way that a dolphin’s brain can receive enough enrichment stuck in a bathtub. They’re self-aware, sentient beings and they may be the second smartest creature on the planet after humans, says Discovery News. Finally, there’s no way that forced and artificial pods at dolphin parks can compete with the strong emotional ties of dolphin pods, cultures and nations.

Sadly, while two new dolphin parks are being considered in Turks and Caicos, dolphin pods are being broken up right now in Taiji, Japan. Every September, the annual six-month dolphin slaughter begins, and it’s one of the strongest examples of everything that’s wrong with dolphin parks. This type of dolphin massacre only exists because of dolphin parks, or sea circuses. Dolphins captured from the hunt are exported all over the world. As investigative journalist and author, David Kirby, explains in takepart, a captive dolphin is worth more than a dead dolphin: “Taiji fishermen can earn $150,000 or more from selling a single live animal, while one butchered for meat fetches only $500 to $600.”

Take Action!

By now, it’s crystal clear that this world does not need more dolphin parks, or sea circuses. A beautiful quote by an unknown author illustrates why cetaceans don’t belong in captivity: “Donít become captivated by captivity. There is no beauty in stolen freedom.” Please sign and share this petition urging Turks and Caicos to remain a haven for wild and free dolphins just like Jojo.

Photo Credit: shaila_a


Caroline A.
Caroline Armon1 years ago

I support and sign petitions regarding no more captivity, and ending the captivity of cetaceans.
FYI Lolita-Tokitae was born free, captured at about 4 years old from her family, the now Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales-Orca community, and is the last survivor of 45 Orca captured, all who began the marine park industry. She survives in the Miami Seaquarium and has been recognized as an endangered L pod member, part of the supposed to be legally protected endangered distinct population segment. Orca Network, the Center for Whale Research, and many others have invested decades to release Lolita-Tokitae from captivity, rehabilitate and care for her in a very well thought out and planned natural sea habitat sanctuary, and ideally she would reunite with her family, pod, and community. We believe her mother is still alive, and Lolita-Tokitae has responded to her unique L pod vocalizations. If she does not rejoin her community, we are prepared to care for her in her home waters, a much healthier natural habitat for this dear dolphin-whale's long overdue retirement at the very least! Many lawsuits have been filed and court hearings will be happening this summer 2016.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

mari s.
Mari S2 years ago

You're 100% right === signed, sent and sealed!

Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

Petition signed & shared

Laurie H.
Laurie H2 years ago

Depressing to see, Signed on SEPT. 6,2015. ~~

Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.2 years ago

Signed in 2013......

Janis K.
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thank you

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F2 years ago