Europe's Largest Dolphin Prison

The hidden cost of wildlife tourism

Europe's Largest Dolphin Prison

The hidden cost of wildlife tourism

Written by Rebecca Woolford

I believe in this world where people are talking about sustainability, the alphabet soup of ESGs, and other certifications, we still neglect and don’t talk enough about the ONE thing that unites us all. Empathy.

Hosting a workshop in London titled ‘the hidden cost of wildlife tourism’ wasn’t going to be easy.

From wild elephant safaris, and volunteering at a turtle sanctuary, to watching dolphins perform, the wildlife tourism industry is hugely diverse. But with such an event hosted in the prestigious area of London Bridge, in close association with Spain’s tourist board, I could only think of one fact to shine a light upon.

FACT: Spain is Europe’s largest dolphin prison.

With 11 marine parks (one of the most infamous being Loro Parque in Tenerife, recently featured in the Netflix documentary Blackfish), it’s estimated that there are 100 dolphins captive in Spain. These venues and large tour operators continue to profit from the dolphins’ avoidable and unnecessary suffering.

FACT: GetYourGuideKlookTravelokaTrip.com Group, and TUI continue to sell captive wild animal experiences like swimming with dolphins, washing elephants, cuddling baby tigers, and selfies with sloths. #Votewithyourwallet

So, let’s explore some of the hidden costs of wildlife tourism, focusing on marine parks in Spain, from two different perspectives. The captive dolphin and the visitor/holidaymaker/tourist.

The hidden cost to the dolphins… 

  • The impact on their physical health includes ulcers, self-mutilation, and appetite loss
  • The damage to their mental health includes abnormal aggression and depression
  • Forced to perform up to 5 shows per day, these smart beings are exposed to a wide range of sounds both above and below water, including human voices, loudspeaker music, and traffic
  • Fatalities: dolphins get head injuries from collisions in the air and when head-butting tanks
  • Shorter lives. E.g. the suspicious deaths of 3 dolphins at Malta’s Marine Park

The hidden cost to the tourist… 

  • A damaging distortion of what a dolphin should act or behave like
  • Zero educational value in an act in which the dolphins are forced to perform
  • Distressing and traumatic: Dolphin attacks on trainers during live shows and even tourists
  • Potential disease transmission due to direct interaction through feeding or swimming
  • False claims of conservation: Less than 10% of zoos or dolphinaria are involved in conservation

Take action today…

  • Join 155,000+ others who have signed a petition calling for the closure of these dolphin prisons in Spain. Started by Olivia, at 15 years old, who wants to follow in the footsteps of countries like Cyprus, Slovenia, Croatia, Costa Rica, and Chile, which have banned this type of dolphin park.
  • If you haven’t already tune into Blackfish on Netflix. A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales.
  • Subscribe to our weekly eMagazine – visit ‘stay updated’ in the menu – to be the first to hear our exclusive interview with World Animal Protection following their recent trip back from Tenerife.
  • Urge ABTA to update their animal welfare guidelines here. The UK hasn’t had these cruel attractions since the 1990s. ABTA needs us to remind them of just how behind they are.

Captive dolphins are…

  • SEPARATED from their mothers far too young
  • CONFINED in tanks 200,000 times smaller than their natural home
  • DEPRIVED of food so they can be trained

Reference: World Animal Protection.

“There is about as much educational benefit to be gained in studying dolphins in captivity as there would be studying mankind by only observing prisoners.”

Jacques Cousteau

Earlier this month I caught up with Kathryn Wise from World Animal Protection to find out the revealing truths and to learn the key actions we can all take. I’ll soon be sharing this valuable and insightful interview found nowhere else.

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