A couple of weeks ago, in Japan, Kuru the dolphin jumped out of her tank during a show at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Former dolphin trainer (from Flipper) turned dolphin advocate and star of The Cove, Ric O'Barry has said "The habitat of that [dolphin] is so unnatural it leapt out of the tank in desperation. It wanted to end it. Why does a person jump out of a building?" Ric may have a point.
While this footage is shocking, it must be a common enough occurrence, since the handlers keep mats around the aquarium's edge to minimise injury when the animals do this exact thing! And why wouldn't she want out?
Each year thousands of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are captured from the wild and placed into small tanks in 'Sea Worlds' around the globe. The animals are then taught to perform tricks for human entertainment. Basically itís a circus for cetaceans. But most people never hear about the horrendous conditions these animals are made to endure.
Like other animals in circuses, these animals donít belong in prisons, but that's what many marine parks are. Everything about a whale or dolphin's life in captivity is restrictive. Dolpins and whales swim dozens and in some cases upwards of a hundred kilometres in a day. Yet in captivity their tanks are often so small that it only takes them a few seconds to swim from end to end. Many of these highly social animals are kept in solitary confinement. And for animals that rely on sonar, their small tanks must be like deafening echo-chambers.
To combat stress related ulcers and 'behavioural problems' these animals are often fed a cocktail of antibiotics and other drugs. Even still, most dolphins in captivity don't live to 20 years (less than half of their natural lifespan), and most orca whales, who could live to be 90+ in the wild, don't live past 10 years of age in captivity.
So it would come as little surprise if Kuru was hoping to end it the other week.
I'm sure you'd agree that locking any animal in a tiny enclosure and forcing them to perform tricks is cruel. Kuru and her cetacean buddies deserve a better life. Just like animal circuses, the strongest message we can send to marine parks with animal performances is simply not to visit them. We can all make a difference and give animals a better life.
What do you think about what happened with Kuru?