This is scary -- Has anyone heard about this Dolphin Park!
This message sent to the Bz-Culture Mailing List from "Mary Toy" <email@example.com>:
I just received the following info from Lisa Carne about a dolphin park
being proposed by Therese Parkey and the foundation she formed after Hugh
I don't know much about this since I'm in the States, so if you need
additional information, contact Lisa Carne - firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't have
her phone number with me, but it's in the book.
> Begin forwarded message:
>> From: Lisa Carne <email@example.com>
>> Date: October 4, 2004 10:44:15 AM PDT
>> Subject: DOLPHIN "PARK"
>>> I also have the info for you on the dolphin park I
mentioned.....basically, Teresa Parkey and her foundation are proposing to
IMPORT approx. 10 dolphins from Honduras (Anthony's Caye Resort) and create
a dolphin park here in Bze out at Spanish Bay resort. These dolpins would be
enclosed in a 4 acre pen, and she would be offering a 'swim with the
>>> They completed the EIA and is now up for commenting. Copies of this
document are available for preusal at the Biltmore plaza, DOE and the
National Library. (I will be doing a brief summary of this document and
forwarding this to you since you might not have access to it) The general
public has until the 15th of October to submitt their comments to DOE (we
suggest this be faxed in or emailed in but CC'd to a few others - just so
records exist). There is also a public meeting being held on the 6th of
7:00 pm at the Belize Biltmore Plaza here in Bze city for the general public
to 'learn more about the project and to give your views and comments'. ...
--Captive Dolphin Awareness Foundation: http://www.dolphinawareness.org/facts/main.html
--Dolphin Captivity Banned in Nicaragua: http://old.handzon.com/dolphinproject/subdetail.cfm?menu_id=540&submenu_id=1
--Haiti Says No to Dolphin Captivity: http://www.animalpeoplenews.org/04/6/haitisaysNO.html
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 2:46 PM
Subject: Re: Bz-Culture: Dolphin Park Proposed by Therese Parkey
Therese Parkey seems to be a good person, but my initial reaction to this is very negative. Swim-with-dolphin parks say "Cancun" or "Florida" to me, not Belize. To me, swim-with-dolphins programs where dolphins are penned up give the wrong image for Belize's ecotourism industry. It's a lot like having a zoo where you ride the elephants.
There was one proposed off Ambergris Caye a few years ago, but happily it never materialized. Many progressive countries have banned them.
Below is a thoughtful letter on the subject from Jean-Michel Costeau. It was sent in 2003 regarding a dolphin program in the Caymans. I suspect these are the same dolphins from Honduras that were proposed for Cayman. As everyone doubtless knows, it was the father, Jacques Costeau, who brought Belize's Blue Hole to world attention.
I would like to add my voice to those of many Caymanians concerned about the possible introduction of a swim-with-dolphins facility in the Cayman Islands.
The project's supporters claim that it would be a financial gold mine, but in the long run, a captive dolphin facility would destroy the Cayman Islands' outstanding eco-tourism credentials, and is certain to rebound to the detriment of the local economy. Already several thousand tourists, from over 30 countries, have signed petitions expressing their opposition to the proposed park.
Why? Because swim-with-dolphin programs are simply a disaster in the making, both for the dolphins and for the people who visit them. The Cayman facility, operated by a group called Living Sea, reportedly plans to house its dolphins in "natural enclosures." This is an oxymoron. For a dolphin accustomed to roaming free up to 40 miles per day, any enclosure is unnatural, and thus the Living Sea facility is in effect little more than a concrete jail. The dolphins, reputedly transferred from captivity in Honduras, were taken violently from their family and home range, and held in pools or pens. In the Caymans, their situation will not improve; they will still be fed dead fish and coerced (by the promise of food the imposition of hunger) to perform tricks and interact, whether they want to or not, with humans.
To counter the global outcry over what amounts to forced labor of a sentient, social and intelligent animal, the swim-with-dolphins industry has added a few new wrinkles to the now familiar justification of its own self-serving goals. Cayman citizens should not be surprised if they hear some of these specious claims.
For one, swim-with-dolphins programs like Living Sea purport to be educational. In fact, they are anti-educational, because they foster the false impression that dolphins are gentle, "warm and fuzzy" creatures, when they are far more complex and interesting, and capable of a range of behaviors, including violence. They are predators with a dominance hierarchy. The false impression leads to ignorance, not enlightenment. This ignorance hurts both dolphins, who are captured and sentenced to life terms for crimes that don't exist, and humans, who can be injured physically, cheated financially and short-changed intellectually.
Some of these businesses also infer that buying time with a captive dolphin helps nurture a greater respect for these animals, even a desire to protect them. This logic has always escaped me, since the chief threat to bottlenose dolphins is the captive dolphin industry.
Some operators claim that swimming with dolphins is therapeutic. Children suffering from Down's Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other conditions are frequent visitors to swim-with-dolphins facilities. While I understand the feelings of reverence and awe that contact with these magnificent creatures inspires, it is critical that people everywhere understand that there is no scientific evidence to prove that swimming with dolphins provides a medical benefit for humans. Other programs, using domesticated animals and plant environments, have similar results and do not involve the cruelty inherent in dolphin captivity.
Far from universally beneficial, swimming with dolphins can actually be bad for you. Broken bones, lacerations, internal injuries, shock--these are just a few of the wounds reported by paying customers.
The effects on dolphins are even worse. After surviving a traumatic capture-and many don't--dolphins are confined in a space that does not allow them to exercise even their most basic natural functions. They suffer from enforced monotony, confinement stress, poor diet, disease, muscular atrophy. So the life span of a captive marine mammal is not only considerably shorter than that of a wild one, but considerably less worth living.
Australian researchers have found that the problems do not disappear when the operation is moved to open pens or bays, such as that proposed by Living Sea. Even wild dolphins habituated to human contact spend up to seven hours interacting with people, and literally forget to feed. In addition, tour boats routinely scare away the schools of fish that dolphin pods herd into feeding position.
Finally, some facilities claim they are engaged in research. But the fact is that captive dolphin husbandry is the only "science" they are capable of producing. And any "findings" that might emerge are more suited to profiles in understanding the human psyche than to peer-reviewed cetacean research.
Although swim-with-dolphins operators are adept at exploiting grey areas in the law, time is not on their side. Australia is considering legislation that would limit the hours and locations of interaction. In the Caribbean, the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol of the Cartagena Convention protects marine mammals, and in Mexico, a new law prohibits the capture of dolphins for display. It would be a shame if the Cayman Islands were to fall from what is the wave of the future in ecotourism into the host of environmental profiteers.
Over the past several years, I was privileged to be a consultant for the Ministry for Tourism. During that time, I took pride in helping to promote locales, like Stingray City and Tarpon Alley, that offered tourists the opportunity to experience the Cayman environment on its own terms.
Swim-with-dolphins operations are incompatible with this philosophy, and are an insult to those of us who view humanity as stewards of nature. They are bad for dolphins, bad for tourists, and in the end, bad for business.
I strongly urge the responsible authorities to preserve the Cayman Islands' positive environmental image, and reject the proposed facility.
Ocean Futures Society