Zoos & Water Parks

Call to Consciousness

 

We invite you to reflect before considering visits to zoos and aquatic parks.

Behind the apparent entertainment, there are harsh realities that deserve your attention.

Here, we summarize some general issues related to the captivity of cetaceans. 

 

Captivity of Cetaceans: The Sad Reality Behind the Glass

  • The captivity of cetaceans sparks a growing debate in society.
  • Imagine the world through their eyes: confined spaces, far from their home, an indescribable suffering.
  • These animals need vast oceans to thrive, but in captivity, they become mere shadows of themselves.
  • Their well-being and freedom are sacrificed in the name of human entertainment. 

The Nightmare of Captive Animals: What is their suffering?

Despite guidelines to ensure the welfare of animals in captivity, studies reveal that stress, depression, and diseases are a constant in the lives of these creatures. In this unnatural environment, their instincts are suppressed, and their very essence fades away in a daily struggle to survive.

Now, visualize their lives:

  • They find themselves trapped, endlessly swimming in spaces with defined limits.
  • Their natural hunting is replaced by controlled feeding, suffocating their basic instincts.
  • They are deprived of their social and familial bonds, essential for their natural development.
  • In stagnant waters, diseases spread more easily, and wounds caused by exposure to the sun and possible unregulated chemicals are common.
  • Interference with their natural sonar, caused by echoes bouncing off walls, adds to constant disturbing noises.
  • They are forced to participate in unnatural performances, while their food is restricted to achieve results.
  • Apathy and dorsal fin collapse are signs of their distress, a result of their confinement in an environment significantly different from their natural habitat, negatively impacting both their physical and emotional health.
  • Lack of space and resources diminishes their lifespan and reproductive capacity, even reaching severe extremes like suicide.

How Cetaceans End Up in Parks?

Many cetaceans are captured under questionable circumstances, torn from their homes and families, subjected to emotional trauma, and physical stress during their transport and adaptation to artificial environments.

Impact on Biodiversity

  • The capture of wild animals for exhibition in zoos and aquatic parks poses considerable challenges for conservation.
  • This can have negative effects on local populations and weaken biodiversity and ecosystem balance.

Manipulation of Laws Regarding Cetacean Imports

  • Despite the ban on commercial imports of cetaceans in the European Union (Regulation EC 338/97), there is a provision allowing import if the Scientific Authority of the exporting country guarantees the survival of the species. This has led to the fact that, in practice, these animals continue to be imported.
  • This importation, often involving captured animals, presents significant challenges both in terms of conservation and ethics on a global scale. 

Captivity of Cetaceans: Research or Profit?

  • In the debate surrounding the captivity of cetaceans, it is argued that it serves scientific purposes. However, it is crucial to understand that studying animals in captivity primarily aims to benefit their counterparts in the wild.
  • Nevertheless, studies reveal significant differences in the behavior of these animals in captivity compared to their counterparts in the wild, making it challenging to apply findings from captivity to wildlife.
  • A confusing blend of scientific and commercial objectives exists, casting doubt on the true intention behind keeping these cetaceans in captivity under the guise of science and conservation.

Captivity & Breeding: Species Protection or Trade?

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognises the importance of maintaining captive populations to prevent the extinction of vulnerable species.
  • However, captive breeding is often applied to species not facing an immediate risk of extinction.
  • Furthermore, captive breeding frequently lacks ideal conditions. Indiscriminate mating can lead to abortions and premature deaths, and the forced separation of mothers and offspring results in higher mortality rates than in the wild, disrupting crucial family bonds. 
  • All of this raises doubts about the true motivation behind captive breeding, questioning if it genuinely aligns with conservation goals or is instead driven by commercial interests.

Can Animals Return to their Habitat?

  • Despite the intended conservation contribution of captive breeding, the process of reintroducing animals poses significant challenges.
    • Will they successfully readapt to wild life and hunting?
    • Can they effectively reintegrate socially?
    • Are they capable of preventing the spread of pathogens acquired in captivity to wild animals?
  • These uncertainties create a daunting backdrop, vital for their survival in their original habitats.
  • Despite attempts to release rehabilitated cetaceans, few data indicate that animals kept in dolphinariums in the European Union have been successfully reintroduced into their natural environment in the aim of preserving endangered species.

Shows in the Parks: Education or Commerce?

  • The Zoos Directive underlines the importance of educating and raising public awareness in recreational parks, stating the need to promote "education and awareness of the public in relation to the conservation of biodiversity by providing information on the species exhibited and their natural habitats" (Article 3).
  • However, the reality shows a significant gap in the execution of this purpose. Research has revealed that in many cases, shows in the parks lean more towards entertainment than education, deviating from the original intent of the directives.
  • This discordance raises questions about whether these shows fulfil their educational function and whether they really raise public awareness about conservation and biodiversity.

How can I Contribute to Cetaceans' Well-being?

  • The harsh reality of cetacean captivity necessitates a collective introspection about our responsibility. Each visit to these venues inadvertently supports the suffering of these animals, prompting a crucial need for questioning this practice.
  • While most visitors do not intend harm to these magnificent creatures, increasing awareness about the challenges behind these shows is key. With greater knowledge, many would opt against participating in such practices.
  • So, what can we do? As individuals, we can take meaningful actions. This includes refraining from purchasing tickets for venues that exploit cetaceans and actively engaging in conversations with friends and family about this issue, ensuring more people are informed and make ethical decisions.

What Ethical Wildlife Experiences Can You Enjoy as Alternatives in Tenerife?

  • Rather than settling for captive suffering, why not marvel at cetaceans in their natural habitat? In Tenerife, you have the opportunity to enjoy these beings in their full splendor.

  • Choose companies that adhere to sustainable values, enriching your journey while avoiding activities that may cause harm to animals.
  • At TenerifEco Tours, we staunchly reject activities that do not meet our ethical standards. We carefully curate animal-friendly options, respecting both the animals and their habitats. Here are some alternatives:
    • Hiking: Explore the island's beauty on foot, connecting intimately with the land and its biodiversity.
    • Boat Tours: Observe dolphins and whales in their natural habitat through a thoughtfully selected experience that is both respectful and enriching.
    • Birdwatching: Discover the rich birdlife of Tenerife in its natural environment.
    • Diving: Dive into the depths and explore the amazing underwater world of the island, connecting directly and respectfully with the marine life that inhabits it.

During these activities, you will learn about Tenerife and its wildlife in a respectful and enriching way.

References

  1. Lafuente, A., Ruiz Riera, E., Sala, A., & Vieira, M. (2014). Cetaceans in captivity: regulations and current situation.
  2. Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Born Free Foundation (2011), EU Zoo Inquiry. DELFINARIOS Review of the keeping of cetaceans in captivity in the European Union and of Directive 1999/22/EC, relating to the confinement of wild animals in zoos. 
  3. COUNCIL Directive 1999/22/EC of 29 March 1999 relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos: https://www.boe.es/doue/1999/094/L00024-00026.pdf 
  4. Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 of 9 December 1996 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein. https://www.boe.es/doue/1997/061/L00001-00069.pdf
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