A delegation from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India met with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan yesterday evening to present a letter from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) objecting to plans to build a dolphin park in Sindhudurg. The delegation also presented a dossier containing opposition to the park (a Rs 510 crore project) from the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, the Humane Society International and world-renowned dolphin expert Ric O'Barry, who was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. The film, which exposed the cruelty of capturing dolphins and confining them to marine parks, shocked the world. During the meeting, Minister Chavan took serious notice of the MoEF objection.
"With the objections of the central government, non-governmental organisations, animal welfare experts, and the local and international public, it's high time for the Maharashtra government to shelve plans for the ill-conceived Sindhudurg dolphin park", says Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs for PETA India. "If even a fraction of the Rs 510 crore cost of the dolphin park project was instead channelled towards helping endangered dolphins in nature, it would go a long way in ensuring the protection of these intelligent animals."
In its letter, the MoEF points out that The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, prohibits the hunting and capturing of wild animals. The letter goes on to say that the Member Secretary of the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has stated that the "objective of the said water park does not conform to the objective of its operation, i.e., conservation of wildlife, as laid down under Rule 10 (1) of the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 2009" and that "the operation of the Water Park for extracting performance out of the animals shall also be [a] violation of Rules 10 (11) (2) of Recognition of Zoo Rules, 2009." It adds that based on similar previous proposals, the CZA has found that keeping dolphins and other marine animals in captivity leads to their "inadequate care" and death because such facilities are not prepared to care for them.
In their rightful ocean homes, dolphins inhabit a vast and complex world. They establish close, cooperative and long-standing relationships. They live in large, intricate social groups, swim together in family pods and can travel up to 100 miles a day. Dolphins used in marine parks are violently torn away from their families and confined to small tanks in which they can swim in only mind-numbing circles. Most captive dolphins live to be only half the age of wild dolphins.
Emory University scientists recently determined that the cognitive capacity of dolphins is second only to that of humans. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – the world's largest science conference – experts in the fields of philosophy, conservation and animal behaviour argued that dolphins should be treated as nonhuman "persons" with their rights to life and liberty respected.
In Brazil and Costa Rica, it is illegal to use marine mammals for entertainment. Israel has prohibited the importation of dolphins for use in marine parks, and Canada no longer allows beluga whales to be captured and exported. In the US, the state of South Carolina has banned exhibits of whales and dolphins.