The Sea World park on Australia’s Gold Coast could soon be banned from breeding dolphins in captivity, after the launch of a public petition to stop the practice.
The decision to stop breeding dolphins at Dolphin Marine Conservation Park in Coffs Harbour leaves Sea World on the Gold Coast as the last marine park in Australia to continue breeding dolphins in captivity.
Dolphin Marine Conservation Park’s Managing Director Terry Goodall said they had not been breeding for some time.
“There’s no reason for us to be breeding. We haven’t been doing it.”
Mr. Goodall recognized there had been a lot of contention about dolphins in captivity.
“But we do believe the ones we have are there because they are legacy animals and we just have to look after them,” Mr. Goodall said.
“The dolphins we have are rescued or born here.”
“All indications are that they’re fine and having a fulfilled life,” he said.
The park, formerly known as Dolphin Marine Magic, will instead focus on education, conservation, and rehabilitation.
“We will continue to have presentations to consumers because I firmly believe that is a fantastic way of educating people on what happens with these particular animals,” Mr. Goodall said.
“We’ve been doing for fifty years, so it’s not something new.
“We do want to get a wildlife hospital up and running and become more involved in education which has become a stronger part of our business model over the past number of years.
“Having said that we are going to be not breeding our dolphins, is not to say that we don’t believe in breeding under human care when it’s appropriate.
“People have been chanting the death knell of zoos for years, but zoos play a very important part because they do educate the consumer,” he said.
Calls for a captive breeding ban
Animal welfare NGO World Animal Protection has called on the Queensland Government to ban captive dolphin breeding at Sea World.
According to ABC news, “The tide is really turning on keeping dolphins captive in entertainment venues,” said senior campaign manager Ben Pearson.
“In years to come, people simply won’t be prepared to go along and see dolphins in small pools and we’ll need to move those dolphins to sea sanctuaries.
“A dolphin born today could live up to 50 years [in captivity], now that’s just terrible,” he said.
“There’s no way we’re going to have captive dolphin venues operating in 50 years and what are we going to do with those dolphins?
“Step one is to stop breeding, step two is get going on a sea sanctuary, which is Dolphin Marine Conservation Park is doing to their credit.”
With 30 dolphins, Sea World on the Gold Coast was one of only two captive dolphin venues left in Australia and one of the biggest in the world, according to World Animal Protection.
“They continue to breed, or say they will, they’ve got no plans for a sea sanctuary despite the fact they have over 30 dolphins,” Mr. Pearson said.
“They seem to be ignoring the reality that people are stopping going to captive dolphin venues, they seem to ignore the fact that community attitudes are shifting.
“That’s extremely disappointing and we’re certainly hoping that the Queensland Government will step in and insist that they stop breeding.”
Many jurisdictions in Australia and overseas have already banned captive dolphin venues, according to World Animal Protection.
“Travel companies are starting to move away from them and people are starting to vote with their feet,” Mr. Pearson said
“So really, in the future, we won’t have dolphins being kept in venues just to provide entertainment for tourists and venues like Sea World need to start planning for that future today.”
Sea World will continue its ‘sustainable breeding program’
Most of the dolphins at Sea World have been born there as part of their managed breeding program.
“Reproduction is a natural process which enriches the lives of the animals and helps contribute to positive welfare of the animals, which is our utmost priority,” said Village Roadshow Theme Parks chief operating officer, Bikash Randhawa.
He said Sea World was proud of its world-class exhibits for dolphins including some of the largest filtered natural sand bottom lagoon systems in the world.
“The health and well-being of our animals are of the utmost priority and we have a strong reputation for caring for marine animals,” Mr. Randhawa said.
“While we are aware that some people do not support the idea of animals in human care, we are proud of our passionate team, our world-class facilities and our position as a global community leader in conservation and education.”
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