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The dignity of dolphins

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Swimming with dolphins is an ambition many people have, attracted by movies and the idea that these normally quite timid creatures may actually enjoy pulling children around by their dorsal fins. But, in fact, swimming with dolphins creates a threatening environment for the dolphins and can be dangerous for humans.

Visitors can pet captive dolphins in shallow pools or interact with them in a deeper pool by swimming beside them or "riding" on their backs. But human injuries and dolphin deaths related to such activities are not recorded. Many are unreported.

Dolphins have evolved over thousands of years to live in the wild, in the ocean, not confined to a man-made tank or artificial pool. Statistics for dolphins that die during capture and confinement are too high and prove that dolphins should not be kept in captivity.

In the wild dolphins can swim over 76 kilometres a day. They are free to forage, mate, fight and play members of their pod. They use their echolocation to explore their whole environment. But captive dolphins must swim in endless circles in artificial habitats, interact with unfamiliar dolphins and other species, eat dead fish, and perform in ways that are unnatural and in some cases painful. They also suffer stress and are exposed to human infection and bacteria and chemicals, such as chlorine.

They must spend up to 80 per cent of their time at the surface of the water seeking scraps of food and attention. In the wild they would spend this time below the surface of the water playing, hunting and exploring.

Beaching themselves as part of the show so that visitors can pet or kiss them. If left in this position for an extended period, Captive dolphins have been trained to ignore their natural instincts; Wild dolphins never voluntarily beach themselves for people to pet them. Their immense weight on land would slowly crush their internal organs. They are trained to "ask" for food, nod their heads and offering handshakes or wave by being rewarded with food. Successfully performing a trick means a scrap of fish. If a captive dolphin waves to you, it is because it is hungry, plain and simple.

If you love dolphins, the best way to see them is on a boat trip or a natural history film.

Look for the Toys for you commpetition in our competition section and win a beautiful dolphin model making kit!
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