2014 07 08 Baltimore National Aquarium announces plans to release captive dolphin Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

BY Natalia Galbettie, JULY 7, 2014 

One step forward and one step back. As the Baltimore National Aquarium has announced that it is discussing plans to release all captive dolphins back into the wild and to stop their captive dolphin program, its northern neighbors at the Vancouver Aquarium is doing the exact opposite by expanding its captive whale and dolphin program.

"The truth is that dolphins are far more cognizant...have much higher level of cognitive capacity, and have very highly demonstrated social behaviors,"said John Racanelli, the head of the Baltimore National Aquarium. "They can obviously sense future events and correlate future and past events. The more we learn here at the aquarium, the more we realize how different these dolphins are from most of their other cousins in the ocean."

Racanelli is the first leader in a zoo or aquarium in the United States to publicly admit that their captive program is not working and the animals' well being could be improved by releasing them. He also mentioned how the interaction guests get with the animals is not beneficial or educational by current conservationists' standards and doesn't encourage people to respect the animals. Racanelli suggested a "national dolphin sanctuary" might be the best option for the ones who have been born in captivity and never experienced life in the wild.

The aquarium's change of heart came after two of its dolphins died in 2011. Since then, the administration has been studying the option of releasing them and so far hasn't come up with a definite timeline.

Meanwhile in Canada, the Vancouver Aquarium is swimming against the tide of animal expert's advice and expanding its cetacean program.

Despite the city's mayor, Gregor Robertson, having asked for an end to whale and dolphin captivity in Vancouver, the aquarium has decided to move on with a multi-year expansion to include beluga whales and dolphins in its tanks.

Famous conservationist, Jane Goodall, also stepped in to try to stop the Canadian organization from proceeding with their plans but the aquarium issued a statement saying she is wrong.

"The Vancouver Aquarium has the greatest respect for Jane Goodall but her information may be incomplete," stated the aquarium's vice president Clint Wright. "The current science is clear that beluga whales live as long, if not longer, while in human care. Scientific and behavioural evidence shows that cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium are content and thriving."

The aquarium's CEO, John Nightingale, has also confirmed that despite the outcries against it, the plans will "likely" go forward. They already hold two Pacific white-sided dolphins, two beluga whales, and three additional belugas on "breeding loan" to SeaWorld parks.

Can someone get these two men a copy of ‘Blackfish'?

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