Dolphin trainers stand with captive dolphins in Sea World San Antonio performance.

A new SeaWorld opens in Abu Dhabi – a sad day for dolphins in captivity



This week was a sad day for animals in captivity as SeaWorld opened a new venue in Abu Dhabi, allowing dolphin ‘presentations.’

Anybody who knows about dolphins, knows that they are intelligent animals unsuited to a life of cruel captivity. They are social, capable of abstract thinking, and have complex needs which can never be met in captivity. 

Yet many tourist attractions throughout the world, such as SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, still think it’s acceptable to condemn dolphins to a life of misery and force them to perform in shows for ‘entertainment’. Animal cruelty can never be considered entertainment. 

There are over 3,000 dolphins in captivity worldwide that are subjected to miserable and inadequate living conditions. To train them, dolphins can be deprived of food so that they will perform in order to be fed. The average tank size of the largest primary tank used at dolphin facilities is over 200,000 times smaller than their natural home range and they are nearly always featureless, resulting in little mental stimulation and nowhere for dolphins to hide.

What may seem like a once in a lifetime experience can amount to a lifetime of cruelty for animals.  

Whilst SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is the company’s first venue to open without orcas, we are disappointed that SeaWorld is once again supporting animal cruelty by offering dolphin ‘presentations.’  

This cruelty must stop. 

The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill

The public and politicians no longer support cruel wild animal entertainment. 

In March, Angela Richardson MP’s Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill successfully completed its passage through the House of Commons. If the Bill becomes legislation, it will make it illegal in England and Northern Ireland to sell and advertise cruel animal experiences abroad such as elephant rides, tiger cub petting, and potentially swim-with dolphin ‘experiences’. This would have huge implications for the tourism industry as it would mean that travel companies would no longer able to profit from cruel wildlife exploitation in these markets.

The Bill is now waiting to have its second reading in the House of Lords. 

The public have also made their feelings on the issue clear – YouGov polling in Britain in May 2022 found that the acceptability of watching a show or performance involving dolphins was 23%.  

What you can do to help

The sale of tickets to captive dolphin entertainment gives venues the economic incentive to breed more dolphins, and each dolphin bred represents another 20 to 30 years of individual suffering. When a single dolphin can generate between 400 thousand to 2 million USD per year for a venue, it is easy for venues to find an excuse to continue breeding dolphins.

Every ticket a travel company sells to captive dolphin entertainment venues perpetuates the industry and provides an incentive to breed or in some cases capture more dolphins from the wild. By not buying tickets to ‘wild animal attractions’ we can send a message to travel companies that wild animal exploitation is not acceptable, we can help make this the last generation of dolphins in captivity.

For more information on how to ensure you are booking a holiday that doesn’t support wildlife exploitation, World Animal Protection’s The Real Responsible Traveller Report has researched which companies are failing wildlife and profiting from animals trapped in the tourist industry.

Image credits: World Animal Protection | Image depicts a dolphin performance in SeaWorld San Antonio in the US

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