1,000,000 hours at the Georgia Aquarium: a whole lot of misleadin’ goin’ on

The Georgia Aquarium writes a new blog post (posted on its Facebook page) celebrating 1,000,000 volunteer/hours clocked at the aquarium.  That is a whole lot of time to tell its story about dolphins and whales in captivity.  So, just to inject some accurate information into the dialogue about whales and dolphins in captivity – perhaps especially for the volunteers trained by the Georgia Aquarium – I suggest that you start with award-winning journalist David Kirby’s piece, published on November 1, 2012, 7 Reasons Killer Whales Should Never Be Held in Captivity.  Before you read that, you should know that orcas are dolphins.  Maybe the Georgia Aquarium told you that.  Maybe it didn’t.

And just because I can’t share without adding a few words of my own, having been a volunteer at the Georgia Aquarium on its opening day, and on a regular schedule for over a year, that is, until the whales and whale sharks began dying, here are a few contrasts between what the aquariums say and, uh, the truth about marine mammals in captivity.

For instance, you might hear the volunteers say stuff like

  • Dolphins and whales live as long in captivity as the wild.
    NOT TRUE.

    No less than four studies demonstrate that bottlenose dolphins live a significantly shorter time in captivity, even excluding infant mortality.
  • Dolphins are not taught to do “tricks” for the aquarium shows. Those are “natural behaviors.”
    NOT TRUE.
    In the wild, dolphins do not tail walk, jump through hoops, or act like rodeo broncos (that’s another vile and cruel “sport”).  A trick is a trick is a trick.  Why does the aquarium industry feel the need to play this word game?  Because they KNOW that YOU know that keeping them in captivity for tricks is unacceptable.
Dolphin trick by Tambako the Jaguar

Why does the aquarium industry feel the need to change the word “trick” to “behavior”? Because they KNOW that YOU know that keeping them in captivity for tricks is unacceptable. Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

  • Dolphins and whales thrive in captivity. 
    NOT TRUE.

    Whales and dolphins in captivity are fed pharmaceutical and drugs on a regular and consistent basis in order to offset the ravages that captivity would wreak without them.  In the wild, dolphins thrive without resort to anything but their “loose and wild” life.  (Reference to whale enemy, Congressman Young (R, WA)).
  • Dolphins and whales in captivity are not releasable. 
    NOT TRUE.

    Perhaps there are some that will never be able to released, but until we try, there is no basis for that blanket statement.
  • The dolphins and whales were rescued. 
    NOT TRUE. 

    At the Georgia Aquarium, Shaka was wild-caught in 1988 and is now approximately 28 years old, having spent only about 2 years knowing what life was supposed to be like for her.  The other ten dolphins in the Georgia Aquarium’s dolphin extravaganza were bred for the show, born in  captivity, and if aquariums have their way, will never know the taste of freedom.

So, while the Georgia Aquarium celebrates 1,000,000 volunteer/hours, I can only picture the millions of people that received its carefully-scripted story about dolphins and whales.  That’s a whole lot of misleadin’ goin’ on.  And wish I could reach out to each one of them to correct the record.

Please join us as we undertake this effort to tell the truth about captivity.  Read  David Kirby’s wonderful book, Death at SeaWorld.  Watch the livestream event of the September 17, 2102, panel discussion among Mr. Kirby, Dr. Naomi Rose and Dr. Lori Marino filmed by Free the Atlanta 11.  Read Ric O’Barry’s recently re-released Behind the Dolphin Smile.

Become informed and begin adding your voice in providing accurate information to offset the inaccuracies about whales and dolphins in captivity.  Tell your friends why they should NEVER go to a dolphin show or an aquarium that houses marine mammals.

Dolphins loose and wild, as they should be not held in the Georgia Aquarium

Dolphins, loose and wild, as they should be.

7 responses to “1,000,000 hours at the Georgia Aquarium: a whole lot of misleadin’ goin’ on

  1. I wish all the “trainers” would quit at all the aquariums. The ones who care about the well being of the animals could take care of them until they could be released or moved to large in sea pens if they can’t be released. They need to be FREE!!!!

    • I totally agree. As Ric O’Barry and others have said, the “show” should be how the dolphins are rehabilitated for release to the wild. Imagine the celebration when that success is reached with an aquarium “pod” and joined with other “pods”.

  2. Great article! Aquariums don’t like to be questioned. When I volunteered at my local aquarium, I was told not to ask where the animals came from because I would not get an answer…”the husbandry department is like the CIA!”

    • Scary. Maybe people like to be in “clubs” where they have “secrets” no matter how vile. But I’m with you. I also suspect that trainers are hearing us out here, maybe more than before, thanks to the Georgia Aquarium’s import permit application and SeaWorld’s troubles following the death of Dawn Brancheau and now Nakai’s injury, not to mention Marineland.

  3. I hate the fact they use the term “behavior” for stupid tricks. That leads me to believe that what they are doing has nothing to do with education, which they claim is the reason for having dolphins and whales in captivity! There is no place for treating these sentient the way they treat them. They need to be free. Stop the madness!

  4. I really hope more volunteers will realize unfair nature of this industry, and move strongly to animal’s side. We all know captivity can make animals nearly (?) mad – time to apply this knowledge and move away from shows/exploitation and tanks to much more natural and animal-centered places. As bonus, one will able to say “hey, this is not _just_ sea, this is sea where _my_ dolphins live and have their dolphin kids!” and it will be truth!

    • Yes, Andrew! The volunteers are served the aquarium industry view every day. Many of them know it and figure it’s no different that in any corporation. However, as you and I and many others know, there are lives in the balance in this “story” and no amount of justification can remove the blood from those unclean hands.

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