Swimming w/dolphins: bad idea?

Jul 22nd, 2005, 04:07 AM
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I honestly don't know much about the swimming with dolphins industry, so I appreciate the posts.

In Georgia, we have the Dolphin Project, a diverse mix of volunteers from around the state (and a few from outside) that goes on about four weekend observation trips a year (a few more are held just for taking photos). We usually leave from Savannah or Hilton Head. We go out in small boats among the marshes and literally look for dolphins. We watch them, take photos and record their activities.

We never, ever feed or physically interact (nobody ever gets out of the boat) with the dolphins. Nor do we chase them down. Some days we see dozens, on others, there are none. Sometimes, they may come near the boats out of curiosity, flip their tails at us and then take off. It's really something to see. These dolphins are pretty much all Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins and the population is very stable.

The data is sent to a professor at the University of Montana, Bozeman, who is tracking the habits we've recorded along with the photos.

Go to www.thedolphinproject.com for more information. It's a non-profit that's been around since 1989. It is NOT an activist or political group.
atlswan is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 04:50 AM
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Wow, is this an eye-opener!! I was in Cozumel a couple of years ago and we passed on swimming with the dolphins because it was so expensive. I thought that if we ever went back we would do it, but you all have talked me out of it. Thanks for that.
P_M is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 06:59 AM
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Well, thanks for all the responses, though I didn't anticipate quite so many.

I think most people look at captured dolphins and orcas in the same way they look at monkeys in a zoo -- a restricted but seemingly comfortable life attended to by trained people who know how to care for them. I'm not saying that depiction is accurate or not; it's just the perception.

So, what about zoos? Are they any different from "pools" that hold dolphins? Why or why not?
j_999_9 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 07:28 AM
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Yes, they are very different from zoos.

Firstly, the monkeys and other animals at reputable zoos are almost always from captive breeding programs or within the zoo network where they regularly "trade" animals for exhibit. Captive dolphins are almost always wild-captured.

Secondly, many (not all, certainly) zoos try hard to replicate the animal's diet and even their habitat as accurately as possible. Dolphins are fed dead, frozen fish loaded with antibiotics to try to kill all of the various diseases they pick up from the people they interact with and the unsanitary conditions in which they are kept. (Where do you think all that dolphin feces in those little "tanks" goes?)

Thirdly, zoo animals are NOT forced to interact with humans in order to be fed or solely for entertainment's sake. If the animal wants to go inside or behind a knoll or a tree, they can. The dolphins are FORCED to perform in order to eat and cannot get away from the loud, ogling tourists, the blaring music and the (sometimes) unwanted attention.

ONE dolphin brings in an estimated $250,000 per year to these programs. Anyone who thinks they are education-oriented and not money-driven is misinformed.
Diana is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 08:11 AM
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Yes, you could tell just by the pricing etc. that they are making $$$ on the animals, so it isn't about them but about the "owners".

There are zoos and there are zoos. I happen to know a lot about this one since I have been a docent and presently am a Brookfield Zoo(IL) member.

Many zoos are not humane. But also the alternative in the wild for some species is so bad that it is a blessed alternative. Also there are some extremely dedicated and responsible people who do their best to give the animal the best diet, life/health and choices it can have.

I am not a big fan of small habitat zoos like Central Park or Lincoln Park in which the animals are caged and YOU walk a realitively small area to look at THEM. But if I raise my opinion I am always nay-sayed.
JJ5 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 09:17 AM
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I have to say that I'm very happy to read everyone's opinion here. Fodor's has many enlightened posters.
Diane, it's been most interesting to read your post since you have done a swim with program. If you felt it was wrong after doing it that says a lot.
The zoo question is interesting also. There is such a wide range of zoo habitats that it's hard compare. I think that zoos like the San Diego zoo do a huge service with their breeding programs. Some animals species would be wiped out if it weren't for some zoos.
viamar is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 09:48 AM
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As a child we (my cousins and I) regularly swam with porpoises (which is what we called them then) in Perdido Bay, Alabama.

My grandmother had a summer home there, and during our visits we children would row boats all over the bay.

The porpoises followed us and frolicked about, and we often jumped into the water and let them swim around us. I don't know why, but we certainly weren't frightened of them.

This has nothing to do with the subject of this thread, but your comment about diving with dolphins reminded me of the fun we had years ago.


Byrd is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 10:34 AM
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Progressive countries such as the United Kingdom no longer have dolphinariums (since 1993). Similarly, Brazil, Israel, the state of South Carolina in USA and the state of Victoria in Austrailia have also enacted legislation making it illegal to keep marine mammals in captivity.

Why is South Carolina the ONLY state in the US to ban this?

Call your senator and ask why.
Jul 22nd, 2005, 01:13 PM
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I thought this was something I would like to try but after reading a post on the Caribbean Forum decided that it was a seriously bad idea.

My sister swam with dolphins with her children in Florida a couple of years ago and was planning on trying it again. I sent her your links and while her daughters are still pleading with her to do it again she is refusing.

Without the information you posted she'd be swimming again next week.

keep up the good job!
alya is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 01:24 PM
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Agree with all on dolphins, we've sought them out in the wild, and really ahd a ball with them swimming under and around our boat for quite a long time, but would not do a captive swim.

Re: the Central Park zoo, it was, when I was growing up, a model for horrible zoos, tigers pacing back and forth in 10 ft cells and all that.

But a few years ago it was completely redone in the "natural habitat" mold, and though they have far fewer animals (no more tigers), the ones they do have get much more space and are in natural surroundings.
liza is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 03:38 PM
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For Diana -

I just wanted to clarify what I said about "legitimate" scientific research: It was a research program run by the state university and my roommate worked there. They were all scientists and doctoral candidates from the University. They only touched a dolphin when necessary (such as medical reasons). My point was that noone - not even the doctors - were allowed to touch a dolphin unless they had specially filed their nails and were devoid of deodorant, perfume, makeup, etc. - all because the dolphins' skins are much more sensitive than most people realize. This was NOT a "play with the dolphins" program, and noone from the "public" was allowed to visit. I was trying to point out that legitimate research centers realize how delicate the dolphins are, unlike commerical centers. If a member of the public were allowed to swim with a dolphin, it aint legitimate.
Jolie is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2005, 10:39 AM
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OK. I haven't read this entire thread. Normally I do. I used the browser's search and didn't find any talk about something worse than swimming w/dolphins : our Navy using them to locate and explode bombs. Yes, I know that a human life carries more value. I'm all for that. What's the big deal with swimming w/dolphins - by comparison??
TripleSecDelay is offline  
Jul 24th, 2005, 04:12 AM
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J_999_9- If you want to swim with dolphins, just swim with them in the wild. I was snorkling in the caribbean one time and a couple came right to me. It just depends on the personality of the dolphin, some swim away from you, some swim to you. Dolphin Watch Cruises are a waste too. I see tons of dolphins in the water close to shore from standing on the beach in North Carolina. You could go out swimming with them there.
asdaven is offline  
Jul 24th, 2005, 01:36 PM
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alya - Thank you SO much for your help. You made my day!

jolie - The program you cited sounds absolutely wonderful, and I only wish there had been something like that around here that I could have participated in. In my post, I was referring to someone who said they felt some of the swtd programs contribute to public education.

TripleSecDelay - Your question is more than answered in this thread and about 50 others over on the Caribbean side.

To all - Thanks so much for your input in this thread. I was really heartened to read all of the positive input about other alternatives to the captive programs. I've encountered dolphins spontaneously in the wild many times.

In May of this year, we went to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, where they have a particularly nasty swtd "attraction." The fisherman who took us past the place during a snorkel tour said that because most of the tourists to the island are Europeans and NOT tolerant of this practice, it's not doing very well. (By and large, the majority all over the world of people who visit the swtd programs are Americans.)

He said it was possible the park may discontinue the practice since they were meeting with a lot of opposition.

Unfortunately, the dolphins of Puerto Aventuras (close to Cancun), rode out the recent hurricane in a hotel swimming pool.
Diana is offline  
Jul 24th, 2005, 02:40 PM
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I agree with all of the above opinions condemning the swtd programs!

From asdaven: " I see tons of dolphins in the water close to shore from standing on the beach in North Carolina. You could go out swimming with them there."

When you see a pod of dophins heading up or down the OBX coastline, they're usually following a school of fish. To suggest people join them is idiocy.

Dolphins typically swim beyond the breakers and point of safety for even the most experienced swimmers.

But more importantly, dolphins aren't the *only* predators tracking the food source. Sharks are prevalent though less noticeable, especially in the early morning and at dusk.
obxgirl is online now  
Jul 29th, 2005, 08:34 PM
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Wow - I read alot of these posts and they really do surprise me. I do agree that probably the majority of swim with dolphin programs in the Caribbean are poorly run and cruel to the animals. However, I believe that such programs held by accredited institutions like SeaWorld are permissable. Accredited zoos and aquariums stop taking animals from the wild for exhibit a long time ago - since the late 60's/early 70's. 75% of the dolphins you see at SeaWorld Orlando were actually born, right there. The others either came from other SeaWorld or other accredited zoological parks. Also, that's one way in which zoos know that their animals are at least fulfilled in their lives - they are eating and they are breeding. SeaWorld Orlando has one of the largest Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Breeding programs in the U.S.

I've read several of you talk about swimming with dolphins out in the ocean. If you approach any marine mammal in U.S. water within 150 ft/48 meters, you're actually breaking a federal law - the Marine Mammal Protection Act. So by accredited institutions like SeaWorld providing these opportunities, people get a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and interact with these awesome creatures upclose.

Poster Diana - Breakfast with Shamu is a character breakfast where a guy in a Shamu suit, joined by Dolly the Dolphin and other SeaWorld characters comes to have breakfast with family, especially those with small children. What's the harm in that?

The harvesting of dolphins or any other animal is inhumane and cruel.

Poster Jolie - animal hybrids like the wolphin occur in nature often - where do you think mules came from. And it's not a killer whale or orca that mated with the bottlenose dolphin, it's a false killer whale which is much smaller that an orca. However, orcas are just huge dolphins anyway - they are all related in the family Delphinidae.

It really does aggrevate me when people get down on zoos and aquariums - especially SeaWorld. Did you know that Anheuser-Busch, which owns the SeaWorld parks, rescues more animals than any other organization in the world?
cbbfish is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 08:41 PM
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SO long and thanks for all the fish
panhandle is offline  
Jul 30th, 2005, 05:31 AM
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" So by accredited institutions like SeaWorld providing these opportunities, people get a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and interact with these awesome creatures upclose"

Just because self-indulgent humans want to "interact" with a marine specie doesn't meant they should.

Is there no end to the feeling of entitlement we have about the planet and its resources?` SeaWorld is a theme park, first and foremost. Please don't forget that. Saving animals is okay as long as it's good business and keeps the tanks stocked and the kiddies happy.
kswl is offline  
Jul 30th, 2005, 04:00 PM
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By interacting with animals, we are learning about them and from them. I think dolphins are just as curious about us as we are about them. I don't think this is self-indulgent at all. If it is, then every dog, cat, fish, pet and horse owner is "self-indulgent", because at one point in time, these were all wild animals too.

In order to get a permit to have an interactive dolphin exhibit, an organization must adhere to the standards of education and conservation set forth by the AZA and other associations like it. A big part of dolphin educating at zoos and aquariums is letting people know about the MMPA so that if they do encounter a dolphin or other marine mammal, they know to keep their distance and preserve the animals and their environment.

SeaWorld is definitely a theme park and they are in the business to make money, as is every other entertainment venue. Since 1970, Anheuser-Busch has rescued over 13,000 animals. Many of these are endangered or threatened species, such as sea turtles and manatees. Having income from SeaWorld makes those rescues possible - 99% of those animals probably would've died without rescue. Most of the animals that are rescued don't even go on exhibit - so it's not about keeping the tanks stocked and kids happy.

Capturing wild animals to put on exhibit is inhumane and cruel. All of the animals that we see in zoos worldwide today, and our very own pets, too, are either themselves or the descendents of animals that were at one point in time captured. I don't agree with this practice at all. But my feeling about accredited zoos and aqauriums and the animals that they have now is this - let's learn from the past by not repeating it and learn all we can from these animals while we can, and save some along the way, too.

Man, I feel like I'm writing a book! Sorry for the long post but this is something I feel very strongly about and believe is worthy of discussion.
cbbfish is offline  
Jul 30th, 2005, 05:01 PM
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Of course if you are scuba diving, what ever happens to be in the water with you is what you will come across, be it dolphins or sharks. We seem to give dolphins and whales a "magical" quality, and I include myself in that but you have to remember that these are wild animals, just as if you were visiting the African plains. I saw a program on Animal Planet a couple of years ago and it was about dolphins and I have to say they are NOT always the sweet, curious, friendly, creatures we like to see them as. Some of them can be quite territorial and agressive, particulary when mating. So, I am glad to hear of anyone that has encountered dolphins while diving and have had a good experience, but keep in mind that it may not always be so.
crefloors is offline  

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