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Real lives lost – the true dolphin, porpoise and whale stories behind the bycatch statistics

Every dolphin, porpoise and whale who dies in fishing gear was an individual with their...

No more dolphin, porpoise and whale deaths in UK fishing gear – join us in saying ‘Goodbye Bycatch’

More than 1,000 dolphins, porpoises and whales die in fishing gear in UK seas every...

Whales and dolphins have flippin’ awesome support bubbles

Friends and family all get involved in bringing up the younger generation of whales and...
two underwater no border

Joy and sadness watching Hector’s dolphins in their wild place

The widening estuary is deserted...  it was not always like this - a rusting trypot...
A mother and baby Commerson's

A breath of fresh air – why I love studying beautiful Commerson’s dolphins

Lockdown in Argentina has been long and tough and so I was excited when restrictions...
© V. Mignon

Covid and conservation – how we protected whales and dolphins together in 2020

© V. Mignon As we begin a new year, our chair of trustees, Lisa Drewe,...

Robotic dolphins – an alternative for the captive dolphin industry?

A deceptively realistic robotic dolphin, made headlines recently, causing people to ask whether robots like...

Save the whales, save the world – convincing governments that whales will help us fight the climate crisis

Whales and dolphins are awesome. They are intelligent, self-aware, socially complex and they need and...

Robotic dolphins – an alternative for the captive dolphin industry?

A deceptively realistic robotic dolphin, made headlines recently, causing people to ask whether robots like this could provide an alternative to the cruelty of keeping dolphins in tanks for human entertainment? It’s an interesting question so let’s explore...

The realistic looking robot dolphin © Edge Innovations
The realistic looking robot dolphin © Edge Innovations

Your donation will help us end dolphin captivity by developing solutions like sanctuaries

While criticism of holding whales and dolphins in captivity is growing, alternatives are being invented. Virtual reality and animatronic technologies have improved massively and this robotic dolphin has been created by an engineering company in the US. It is two and a half metres long, weighs 250 kg and its skin is made from medical-grade silicone. It resembles a bottlenose dolphin so closely that we would be hard-pressed to tell the difference from a distance – it’s quite incredible! And the price?  A staggering $26 million.

WDC supports alternative solutions to the display of whales and dolphins. A life in a tank, let alone the capture and transport, is extremely stressful for these intelligent and social mammals.

But is it as simple as just replacing live captive dolphins with robotic ones? Presenting these ‘techno-dolphins‘ in their natural environment and using them to demonstrate dolphins' natural behaviours could be an extremely powerful educational tool, whereas encouraging people to interact with a robotic dolphin in a featureless pool environment somehow just perpetuates the myth that dolphins belong in tanks and risks encouraging people to want to swim with real dolphins.

Robotic dolphin with swimmer © Edge Innovations
Robotic dolphin with swimmer © Edge Innovations

The suffering of dolphins in captivity needs to end and we welcome all innovations that will help us get there. One solution is the creation of ocean sanctuaries like the beluga sanctuary that we’ve created in Iceland in partnership with the SEA LIFE Trust. This world first project allows captive belugas to live in a natural ocean environment where they no longer have to perform in shows and have much more choice as to how they live their daily lives.

The residents of the world's first whale sanctuary
The residents of the world's first whale sanctuary

More sanctuaries are needed for other species in other locations but this won‘t happen overnight and in the meantime, we need to change the image of dolphins that still prevails in some parts of our society.  Whether real dolphins or robots, instead of watching them jump in tanks and interact with humans we should be learning about their natural behaviours, social structures and their need for protection in the wild. These incredible robotic dolphins and other advances in technology have the potential to help enormously with this and we are excited to see where this goes. But let’s not put them in tanks.

You can help end captivity with a donation

Your gift, whether large or small, will help us support alternatives to cruel dolphin captivity.

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About Ulla Ludewig

Projektreferentin - Ulla Christina Ludewig setzt sich im deutschen und internationalen WDC-Team für die Schließung von Delfinarien und verantwortungsbewusste Wal- und Delfinbeobachtung ein.

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