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We understand why people love dolphins and why many want to see them close up, but putting whales and dolphins in tanks for our ‘entertainment’ is wrong.
Captive dolphin show

Whales and dolphins are highly intelligent creatures who want and need to live in complex social groups. In captivity they will usually have been separated from their families, often in cruel hunts and some when they are very young.

Wild whales and dolphins can swim up to 100 miles a day, hunting and playing. In captivity they have very little space and cannot behave naturally. A concrete tank can never replace their ocean home.

The mental, emotional and physical stress that a captive whale or dolphin suffers can weaken their immune system and make them prone to disease. Even though captive whales and dolphins are kept in an environment free of predators, pollution and other threats, they die young. The death rate for infant whales and dolphins is also much higher in captivity.

WDC - with your support we make a difference

As well as supporting vital studies of wild whales and dolphins, WDC has also run many successful campaigns around the world against captivity. In 2012, we took 30,000 origami dolphins to present to the European Parliament in support of our campaign to end captivity across Europe which has already seen a number of countries such as Croatia and Slovenia ban the practice. We've helped prevent the establishment of captive facilities in the Caribbean while India has also banned whale and dolphin captivity

Presenting 30,000 origami dolphins to the EU.
Presenting 30,000 origami dolphins to the EU.

In 2013, our campaign to stop Virgin promoting holidays to SeaWorld saw 100,000 people watch our video. Sir Richard Branson listened to our call and shortly after issued a statement instructing Virgin Holidays to stop working with any aquarium or theme park that continues to capture whales and dolphins from the wild or imports whales and dolphins taken from the wild after February 2014.

Virgin also held an unprecedented multi-stakeholder meeting involving individuals from all sides of the captivity debate and issued a pledge against wild capture, which has been signed by more than 30 facilities holding whales and dolphins in captivity so far.

Orcas in captivity
Orcas in captivity

In 2014, an online petition by WDC supporter, Kathleen Haase gathered over 275,000 signatures asking British Airways to end their relationship with SeaWorld. In June 2015 we attended their parent company's annual board meeting to bring the issue to the attention of BA's shareholders and presented a series of questions to the board.

In recent years, WDC has been at the forefront of the campaign to stop Georgia Aquarium's attempts to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia. After US officials turned down the application, WDC helped defend the case in court when the Aquarium appealed. Once again we were successful and finally in November 2015 the Aquarium announced it would no longer pursue the case.

Our latest campaign focuses on the trade in dolphins from the cruel drive hunts in Taiji, Japan and the involvement of airlines in transporting dolphins to marine parks around the world. We have already been successful in getting several airlines to agree not to carry dolphins from the hunts and are now asking members of the Star Alliance group to do likewise.

Frequently asked questions about captivity

Captive whales and dolphins have been trained to perform tricks, day after day, for food as a reward instead of behaving naturally. When not performing, they are often kept in holding tanks smaller than show pools. Confining animals together that may not get on can result in stress and aggression with no possible escape.

Wild capture of whales and dolphins is brutal. Entire pods may be targeted and many animals killed or injured. Only the young and fit are taken. These are the future generations for these already vulnerable wild populations and their loss has a hugely negative impact on group dynamics.

We have no right to put these amazing creatures in captivity. Captive whale and dolphin shows are not education, or conservation; stress and disturbing behaviour is common amongst dolphins displayed in dolphinaria. Captivity is all about making money.

There are many fantastic opportunities to see whales and dolphins in the wild both from land and with a responsible boat operator, so help us end captivity and keep whales and dolphins wild.

Orcas in captivity infographic

View the orcas in captivity infographic as a pdf