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DOLPHIN TOURISM

The global plight for our flippered friends


‘Swim with Dolphins’ programs have flourished the world over for two decades. Sadly, with proper education and information on dolphin conservation sorely lagging behind this rapidly growing industry, these activities have mostly put just a new threat on the survival of wild dolphin populations in the world's oceans.

Thanks to extensive global media coverage of dolphins and their celebrity status in the advertising business, whale and dolphin watching has become widely popular in many countries.

Millions of people feel very affectionate towards dolphins today but there isn`t much to be jubilant about though, according to new dolphin research data, collected by scientists who studied interactions between humans and dolphins and the increasing impact of tourism on the welfare of marine mammals worldwide.
In Latin America, Asia and most of the Tropics, wild dolphins are captured in alarmingly high numbers for so called petting zoos, where tourists can get intimately close to them in swimming pools.

New Zealand has high levels of mortality rates in dolphins, caused by boat collisions and boat propeller- related injuries. In Hawaii, where tens of thousands of tourists swim with dolphins every year, the stressed animals avoid humans more and more, spending 25% less time in secluded bays,which provided shelter, mating , birthing and nursing areas to them for centuries .

"Protect dolphins-admire them from a distance-let the wild ones be wild" pleads a brochure published by the US National Fishery Department.The very need of printing such leaflets should send our alarm bells ringing.

The International Whaling Commission has addressed the swim with dolphins - tourism issue for the first time only two years ago. Hundreds of dolphins are captured, harassed and killed annually for the sake of mass tourism, they're over-exploited to the extreme so that we, the tourists can be close to them.
Wild dolphins are dying,because stress weakens their immune system, and with their growing attachment to humans they're losing their natural wariness, which makes them vulnerable to human vandalism and shark attacks.
They swim closer to churning boat propellers and pay for their curiosity with severe injuries or even death. Wild dolphins are hunters and predators who can easily hurt or kill humans.
Their ever-smiling appearance is highly misleading, too many close interactions between tourists and dolphins can change their behavior for the worse. Rising numbers of accidents, related to aggressive dolphins are well known among dolphin researchers, although such incidents often remain unreported to the public.

Wild dolphins have pulled swimmers out to the open sea, have held back divers at the sea floor and have sexually harassed women. Perhaps the Flipper myth of a friendly dolphin has done the most harm to dolphins, because people are getting the wrong picture. Wild dolphins will bite, injure or even kill humans, if they feel overstressed, frustrated or frightened. At least one fatal accident with a male bottlenose dolphin and a tourist is reported from Brazil. The unfortunate man got killed after he had tried to carry the tame dolphin to the beach, to take snapshots!

Most disturbingly, humans continue to do horrible things to dolphins. In the US, mutilated dolphin corpses have been found washed up on beaches, with golf balls and explosives in their stomachs.
In West Australia rangers have caught tourists redhanded, feeding dolphins with chicken bones. Feeding dolphins under ranger supervision has proven fatal to many dolphin calves. Scientists put the blame on female dolphins, who will not teach their offspring to hunt, because they're too busy competing for food handouts with their own young.

While the ancient myths of legendary human and dolphin encounters never cease to enchant people until today, man remains the dolphin's worst enemy. Wild dolphins still die by the millions in tuna fishing nets, they're killed for shark bait, lead miserable lives in circus shows and are being abused in highly controversial therapeutic or military programs.

Isn’t it time to give them a break? Dolphins simply cannot swim away when harassed by people, but millions of tourists worldwide do have a choice. They should also be aware that their passionate, insatiable demand for "dolphin-entertainment" must have a limit, otherwise many wild dolphin populations are going to be depleted forever. We should all follow the advice of most dolphin experts for a more "precautionary approach to interacting with wild dolphins".

To meet dolphins in the wild is a privilege and very special, it should happen though with our utmost respect and kindness towards these magnificent animals. Let the dolphins set the pace for the encounter. For their welfare and your personal safety, don't feed or harass them. Learn more about dolphin conservation and support local wildlife authorities at your holiday destination, by presenting your personal feedback and report any possible wildlife violation.

Wild dolphins should be cherished for what they are: priceless, natural treasures, with whom we share this ravaged planet.

The words of dolphin researcher Dr.Kathleen Dudzinski say it best:

"THE OCEAN IS NOT OUR HOME, BUT OUR PLAYGROUND,.... WE ARE GUESTS AND SHOULD ACT ACCORDINGLY."


Renate Hubinger
ESAF - The Eyptian Society of Animal Friends. HURGHADA, Red Sea, EGYPT.
Tel/Fax: 0020 65 444605
Sources: ASMS/Swiss Marine Mammal Protection,Peace between Species
by Dr. Toni Frohoff, PhD, US, asms xtra, summer 2003, and US National Marine Fisheries Service leaflet ‘Protect Dolphins PS’. Please support our petition ‘SOS for the Dolphins’ at Shab Samadai Reef.


Thank you!

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