58 years. The oldest of her kind. In captivity, that is. 58 years living only in enclosures, tossing balls, retrieving Timex watches for commercials, performing in shows, producing offspring for more shows, giving blood “voluntarily,” being a swimming “lab.” And the Georgia Aquarium and Marineland celebrate. They celebrate by creating a video for humans to watch. Not for Nellie. They get dogs and kids, her captive-born offspring, and employees from the Georgia Aquarium to say into the camera, with big smiles, “Happy Birthday, Nellie,” to the world’s oldest dolphin in captivity, so that you’ll come to Marineland and the Georgia Aquarium.
I feel certain that you will not be mislead by a video that might, with its cute soundtrack and birthday cake, sound and look like happiness to a 7-year-old. We have actually grown up and developed the ability to think. We can realize that the dolphin shows we loved as children bely an ugly truth – that these animals who were not made to entertain or be the object of captive research or breeding programs, are being used for precisely that. You may understand that, but they are hoping that your 7-year-old sees the video, sees the birthday cake, hears the happy tune, and nags you until you agree to go. To pay money that subsidizes dolphin capture and, yes, I’m going to say it, dolphin slaughter.
Just in case you’re wondering, what did they learn from Nellie to justify her 58 years in captivity? “Other than routine medical checkups, no official scientific studies have been made and there is no clear explanation why Nellie has had such a long life. There are many theories, ranging from Marineland’s filtration system to her diet.” But now that she’s old, Marineland curator Kevin Roberts said, “Every day she is with us we are able to observe and gather more and more data about geriatric dolphins. She is our own swimming lab.” More good birthday news for Nellie.
So here’s what I say to all who think that Nellie and other dolphins are here to satisfy something for us. A dolphin was made for itself. Not for us at all. And here’s my belated birthday wish for Nellie, I wish your next life to be free. Namaste, Nellie.