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Life Arts    H4'ed 1/31/10

Dolphins in tanks: Cruel confinement

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The vast majority of aquatic animals in captivity are taken from their ocean homes. From 1995 to 2004, Cuba alone captured and sold at least 140 bottlenose dolphins to marine "attractions."

The mortality rate for dolphins and other captive marine life is high. Animals have become sick and have died from contaminated water and stress-related ulcers and from ingesting key chains, sunglasses and rocks that were tossed into their tanks. They've died while being treated for common ear and tooth infections. Former dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry quit the business after the death of Flipper, his favorite "student," believing that stress and depression contributed to the dolphin's death.

Because official records are sketchy at best, there is no way of knowing for sure how many animals die in captivity. But since many gate-drawing animals such as orcas and bottlenose dolphins are covered by million-dollar insurance policies, even dead they bring in bucks.

It's time to stop capturing and displaying dolphins for our amusement. These intelligent, social animals should not lose their freedom just so that we can watch them perform silly tricks. Families can help keep dolphins, whales and other aquatic animals in the oceans where they belong by refusing to patronize aquariums, "swim-with" programs and marine theme parks.

Jennifer O'Connor is an animals in entertainment campaign writer with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

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