Imagine being taken from your family and kept in a tiny, barren room — for the rest of your life. Why? So you could be put on display for ‘entertainment’, and even made to perform. This is a reflection of the sad experience of many animals kept captive in marine parks and aquariums in Australia, and around the world.
Dolphins and seals forced to perform unnatural ‘tricks’… Sharks made to swim in endless circles in crowded tanks… Baby orca calves separated from their distressed mothers and sold to other marine parks. Sadly, animals in marine parks never have the freedom to express the full range of their natural behaviours.
There are many tragic stories from marine parks of family-oriented animals like orcas and dolphins being separated and sent to different parks. The eye-opening documentary Blackfish has exposed the suffering that mother orcas — who would usually spend their whole life with their calf — experience when separated from their babies.
The strong desire to maintain a family unit is not the only thing taken away from animals in captivity. Dolphins, sharks, seals and other animals are all kept in tanks that significantly limit their freedoms to explore, hunt, forage, and socialise the way they would in the wild. Orcas are highly active, and in the wild, they can swim more than 100 kilometres a day. Yet in marine parks, they will live their whole lives in small tanks.
Not surprisingly, these animals can suffer stress, depression and other mental health issues as a result. SeaWorld in the US has even admitted to drugging their whales with anti-anxiety medication.