A popular maritime tourist attraction has announced it will no longer breed dolphins, making the five dolphins in the pools in NSW the last generation in captivity in the state.
Most important points:
- NSW marine park says it will focus on education and rehabilitation rather than breeding
- Animal welfare NGO World Animal Protection calls on Queensland government to ban captive breeding of dolphins at Sea World
- With 30 dolphins, Sea World on the Gold Coast is one of only two captive dolphins in Australia
The decision to stop breeding dolphins at the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park in Coffs Harbor leaves Sea World on the Gold Coast as the last marine park in Australia to continue breeding dolphins in captivity.
Dolphin Marine Conservation Park general manager Terry Goodall said they hadn’t bred in a while.
“There’s no reason for us to breed. We didn’t do it.”
Mr Goodall acknowledged that there had been much disagreement about dolphins in captivity.
“But we believe the animals we have are there because they are legacy animals and we just need to take care of them,” said Mr. Goodall.
“The dolphins we have were rescued or born here.”
“All indications are that they are okay and have a fulfilled life,” he said.
Formerly known as Dolphin Marine Magic, the park will instead focus on education, conservation and rehabilitation.
“We will continue to make presentations to consumers as I firmly believe this is a fantastic way to educate people about what is happening to these particular animals,” said Mr Goodall.
“We’ve been doing that for 50 years, so it’s not something new.
“We want to deploy a nature hospital and get more involved in education, which has become a stronger part of our business model in recent years.
“Just because we’re not going to breed our dolphins doesn’t mean we don’t believe in breeding under human care when it’s appropriate.
“People have been sounding the death knell for zoos for years, but zoos play a very important role because they inform consumers,” he said.
Calls for captive breeding
Animal welfare NGO World Animal Protection has called on the Queensland government to ban captive breeding of dolphins at Sea World.
“The tide is really turning to keep dolphins captive in entertainment venues,” said senior campaign manager Ben Pearson.
“In the next few years, people are just not going to be willing to go along and see dolphins in small pools and we will have to move those dolphins to marine sanctuaries.
“A dolphin born today can live to be 50 years old” [in captivity]now that’s just awful,” he said.
“It is impossible that in 50 years we will have dolphins in captivity that are active and what are we going to do with those dolphins?
“Step one is to stop breeding, step two is to go on a marine sanctuary, which Dolphin Marine Conservation Park does to their credit.”
With 30 dolphins, Sea World on the Gold Coast was one of only two captive dolphins in Australia and one of the largest in the world, according to World Animal Protection.
“They continue to breed, or say they will. They have no plans for a marine reserve, despite having more than 30 dolphins,” Pearson said.
“They seem to be ignoring the reality that people are stopping visiting captive dolphin sites – they seem to be ignoring the fact that community attitudes are shifting.
“That is extremely disappointing and we certainly hope that the Queensland Government will step in and push for them to stop breeding.”
According to World Animal Protection, many jurisdictions in Australia and abroad have already banned captive dolphins.
“Travel companies are starting to distance themselves from them and people are starting to vote with their feet,” said Pearson
“So really, in the future we won’t have dolphins kept in locations just to entertain tourists and locations like Sea World need to start planning for that future today.”
Sea World continues ‘sustainable breeding program’
Most of the dolphins at Sea World were born there as part of their managed breeding program.
“Reproduction is a natural process that enriches the lives of the animals and contributes to positive animal welfare, which is our highest priority,” said Bikash Randhawa, Chief Operating Officer of Village Roadshow Theme Parks.
He said Sea World prides itself on its world-class dolphin exhibits, which include some of the largest filtered lagoon systems with natural sandy bottoms in the world.
“The health and welfare of our animals is a top priority and we have a strong reputation for caring for marine animals,” said Mr Randhawa.
“While we are aware that some people do not support the idea of animals in human care, we are proud of our passionate team, our world-class facilities and our position as a global leader in conservation and education.”