(Almost) everyone loves cute, furry animals. Zoos and aquariums are usually filled with people, some of whom would never step into a nature reserve. Here in Singapore, we’ve got our Nature Reserves, Nature Parks, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (comprising Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and River Safari), Underwater World Singapore, and most recently, Resorts World Sentosa‘s Marine Life Park (including the S.E.A. Aquarium, Ultimate Marine Encounters, Adventure Cove Waterpark, and Dolphin Island).
As someone intending to graduate with a degree in Zoology, I naturally love animals and have a special soft spot for marine creatures. However, I haven’t been to Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) since it opened in 2010, and refuse to visit any of their attractions, ever since I found out about their dolphins.
The Marine Life Park (MLP) dolphins come from the wild. 27 of them were caught from the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and 3 died before arriving in Singapore. Getting caught is a traumatic experience for wild dolphins, and keeping them in captivity does not help with their stress levels.
Dolphins have one of the largest home ranges in the animal kingdom, constantly travelling and foraging for food. By keeping them in contained aquariums, we are depriving them of their natural behaviour.
MLP’s stance is that they are using the dolphins for educational purposes, and while I agree that zoos and aquariums do play a large part in public education, surely we need not resort to keeping wild-caught dolphins for that. Many dolphin interaction attractions, instead of promoting marine conservation, falsely give the public the impression that it’s alright to handle dolphins and that they’re happy in captivity. It’s undeniable that dolphins are of the most sociable animals on this planet, and in the wild, they do occasionally interact with humans. However that would be on their terms, and not ours. Captive dolphins do not do much better than their wild counterparts (if they even survive), and many countries have outlawed the practice of keeping dolphins in captivity.
The Dolphin Island in MLP is slated to open on 30 September, and “up to 80 people a day will be allowed in the water to get acquainted with the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins”.
The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) in Singapore had launched a campaign to Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins and has been petitioning for their release. Their website is great – lots of resources if you’re interested to find out more.
ACRES is also organising an event in London on 21 September to launch the next phase of their campaign – a boycott of Genting Casinos, which owns RWS.
If we truly love these animals, we should demand their freedom and allow them to live freely in the wild. Where is the love in capturing animals from the wild, putting them in enclosures and subjecting them to molest?