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Uncovering the dark side of captivity

Last week we launched our major new campaign to reveal and uncover the dark side...
Bottlenose dolphins © Christopher Swann

On the anniversary of the massacre of 1,423 dolphins, what’s changed?

One year ago today, 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, including mothers with calves and pregnant females,...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
A dolphin plays in front of the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay

Sharing our Spey Bay stories – tell us yours

2022 is Scotland's Year of Stories, a year in which stories inspired by, created or...
Orcas in Australia

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An orca named 'Hulk' off Caithness, Scotland

My amazing week watching orcas in Scotland

Orca Watch's 10th anniversary event in the far north of Scotland was exhilarating with a...

Faroes dolphin hunt review – disappointing is an understatement

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Minke whale - V Mignon

We told them this would happen! Time to halt cruel whale experiments

An ill-conceived and so far ill-fated joint US/ Norwegian experiment to test minke whales' reaction...

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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