Allegations in Animal Rights Group’s “Report” on Dolphin Facilities Are Unsupported by Science and Designed to Pressure Travel Companies to Stop Supporting Zoological Facilities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 24, 2019

CONTACT: Laurie Holloway, 312-558-1770                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2019—The U.K.-based animal rights group World Animal Protection’s new “report” on zoos, aquariums, and marine parks with dolphins is long on rehashed allegations and short on the scientific research to support them. Lacking anything new, the report is the latest in a coordinated series of tactics designed to pressure travel companies like Expedia to stop promoting visits to accredited zoos and aquariums, regardless of the high animal welfare standards of those facilities or their scientific research, conservation, and public education work that benefits animals in the wild.

“Despite the allegations of extremists who oppose zoos and aquariums, the millions of people who visit accredited zoological facilities each year, see dolphin shows, or participate in interactive programs with dolphins and other animals trust their own eyes and experiences and see the animals are loved and extremely well cared for by trained, compassionate professionals,” said AMMPA President and CEO Kathleen Dezio. “That’s why visiting these facilities, as even the report acknowledges, remains so popular.”

Recent peer-reviewed, published, scientific research shows that:

--Dolphins in accredited facilities live as long as their ocean counterparts, and in many cases longer, thanks to high-quality food, professional veterinary care, and constant play and exercise to keep them mentally and physically healthy.

--Stress levels of dolphins in human care – measured by the level of their cortisol hormone – are equal or lower than in wild dolphins.

--Wild dolphins have more compromised immune systems than those in human care.


AMMPA facilities participate in conservation studies to help:

--Reduce accidental boat strikes of wild dolphins and their entanglement in fishing gear

--Develop new drone technologies that will help scientists collect hormones from dolphins safely without restraint

--Determine the effects human made sounds in the ocean have on dolphin cognition

--Use data collected on breath physiology to triage dolphins that mass strand on beaches

--Determine the impact of human disturbances on the ability of wild dolphins to meet their daily energetic needs

All of this work would be impossible without the partnerships between AMMPA facilities and major university scientists as well as the patronage of millions of guests each year who support the conservation missions of AMMPA member organizations.

This specious “report” minimizes the critical scientific research and rescue and rehabilitation work conducted by zoological facilities that helps improve the lives of wild dolphins and facilitates work to protect animals in the wild and their ocean habitats. Marine mammal rescue organizations have just two options for rehabilitated animals that can’t be released back into the wild: find an accredited marine park, zoo or aquarium to provide costly, lifetime care ­– or unnecessarily euthanize the animal.

“It doesn’t matter to animal rights groups how high the standards of a dolphin facility are or how much scientific research, or rescue and rehabilitation and conservation work a facility does, because they are opposed to having any animals in human care under any circumstances, including in many cases even pets, ” Dezio said. “We encourage Expedia and other travel companies that hear these allegations and are the subject of animal rights pressure campaigns like this one to consult real marine mammal scientific experts who have worked with the animals in zoological facilities and in the wild and publish their work in peer-reviewed journals.  We also encourage them to talk with accrediting bodies like AMMPA about their standards and visit accredited facilities to see for themselves how animals thrive in these facilities.”

The Alliance is the preeminent trade association and accrediting body for zoos, aquariums, and marine parks throughout the world that exhibit dolphins and other marine mammals. Our mission is to support the highest standards of care for marine mammals and to contribute to their conservation in the wild through public education, scientific research, and the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured animals in the wild. Its accredited institutions in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean collectively possess the largest body of marine mammal experience and expertise in the world.

More than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums each year, forming a powerful connection with animals and leaving armed with facts about how to help save them in increasingly threatened wild environments.

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