A first-hand account from a former employee of Delphinus Xcaret – a marine park in Mexico that forces dolphins to swim and interact with humans – reveals yet again why you should never visit a facility that exploits these intelligent, sensitive animals for profit. The whistleblower told PETA US of the extreme suffering she witnessed while working as a photographer for the park’s “swim with dolphins” attraction, including mother dolphins crying out for their babies who had been torn away from them and animals whose bodies were burned from prolonged exposure to the blazing sun.
She said the experience was one of the most – if not the most – horrible things she’s ever endured, but what’s even more sickening is that the cruelty she observed, which still haunts her to this day, continues.
Marine Park Cruelty
While working at the park, the ex-employee saw five dolphins confined to a single swimming pool–size tank that was only about 10 metres deep. In nature, dolphins can swim up to 60 miles a day, and they typically spend their whole lives with their mothers and sisters in a family pod.
Forcibly impregnated dolphins reportedly languished for two months in tanks so small that they could barely move around comfortably. Then, once they gave birth, handlers ripped their babies away before they even had the chance to bond with them. Like human babies, infant dolphins are completely reliant on their mothers, feeding on their milk for two to three years. They naturally stay together for five to 10 years, until the youngster learns all the skills needed to be independent.
“I could hear them scream for their young – noises I’ll never forget. … There has not been one day that has gone by that I do not relive the high-pitched squeals that the mother dolphins made when they were separated from their young.”
Two baby dolphins died in just one week. Delphinus staff reportedly threw their bodies away like rubbish.
The dolphins sustained burns and eye injuries from spending all day exposed to the blazing sun, which they couldn’t escape. Bacteria in the water, left by the hundreds of tourists who paid to swim with the dolphins each day, meant the animals had to be given respiratory treatments up to twice a day. Many dolphins were also drugged with “vitamins”, which were likely to make their overwhelming distress less obvious to visitors.
Hiding the Truth
Employees, she added, were directed to give “a spiel full of lies and ambiguous statements”. Even though most of the dolphins had been captured from their ocean home years prior, staff had to lie about their ages and say that they had been born at the facility.
“When [visitors] asked if the dolphins were happy, if they were being taken care of, and if this was the best option for them, we were told to say ‘yes’ with a big smile,” she said.
“These animals were working all day, pushing, pulling, performing, and swimming in circles for tourists under the pretence of ecotourism and environmental education. When everyone went home to their families at the end of the day, the dolphins could only float there with nowhere to go, five at a time in a small pool without any room, shade, or mental stimulus.
“As an ex-employee who has seen the inside of this industry, I urge you not to take your children or families to these facilities,” she said.
This is not the only facility in which dolphins are suffering. They languish in marine parks and other cruel facilities that force animals to perform and interact with humans in many countries around the world.
What You Can Do
Social, intelligent dolphins don’t want to be exploited in cruel tourist attractions. Never visit a facility that keeps them confined in tanks and forces them to swim with and perform for humans.
PETA is urging the UK travel trade association ABTA to live up to its “responsible tourism at home and abroad” claim by doing the right thing for whales and dolphins: advising its members to stop advertising and selling tickets to cruel marine parks that hold cetaceans captive and adding these facilities to its list of unacceptable practices. Tell ABTA that marine animals need protection, too!