RWS dolphin death: Time to ban ‘swim with’ programmes
The death of Sharmila, one of the captive dolphins in Resorts World Sentosa’s (RWS) Dolphin Island exhibit, should prompt RWS and other resorts to stop treating marine mammals like hotel amenities.
In the wild, dolphins swim up to 160km a day together in family pods. They navigate by bouncing sonar waves off objects to determine location and distance. In aquariums, these animals can only circle endlessly in small, barren, chlorinated tanks, which to them are the size of a bathtub.
Dolphins used in “swim with” programmes and other exhibits are far removed from all that is natural to them. Separated from their families and deprived of their natural instincts to forage for food, explore, raise families and communicate with other members of their own species, dolphins quickly become bored, frustrated and depressed. Many go insane. Their difficulty in adapting to this alien world can be seen in marine mammals’ dramatically diminished life expectancies in captivity.
As long as resorts and marine parks continue to exploit dolphins, dolphins will continue to suffer and die. RWS should rehabilitate and release its remaining dolphins, and Singapore should ban dolphin shows and “swim with” programmes, much like India, Costa Rica, Hungary and Chile.