The National Aquarium in Baltimore announced on Thursday that it will be retiring all its dolphins to a soon-to-be-built coastal sanctuary, the first one ever in the United States. The transfer will take place by the end of 2020.
The dolphins will be protected under a coastal habitat, and they will continue to be under human care. It is a move made after increased pressure from animal rights’ groups and a possible change in the way the people nationwide view the use of captive animals for education and entertainment, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor.
“There is no model anywhere, that we are aware of, for this,” John Racanelli, chief executive officer for the National Aquarium, told the Associated Press in an interview about the announcement. “We are pioneering here, and we know it is neither the easiest nor the cheapest option.”
However, the location of the dolphin sanctuary is yet unknown and under discussion in the organization. Florida and the Caribbean are being considered as possible locations of the place. Racanelli stated that the possible locations need to fulfill some specific requirements such as saltwater in a tropical climate, which provides a significant “natural stimuli,” including fish, plants and ideally other dolphins.
Full-time staff will continue taking care of the eight dolphins, seven of which were born in captivity. The National Aquarium also stated that the conditions of the sanctuary will include excellent water quality, isolation pools for medical care or temporary refuge from harmful conditions and barriers to stop breeding among the dolphins or mingling with the wild ones in the area, Racanelli said.
The Dolphins ages in the Baltimore aquarium range from seven to 44 years old, which is the oldest one and was captured from the ocean. The National Aquarium has not made shows with the animals since 2011, a reason that was taken into account at the moment of the decision. According to Racanelli, a decade off feedback has shown that the American public is increasingly uneasy with the notion of keeping dolphins and whales in captivity.
Such decision by the Baltimore facility puts some additional pressure on more than 30 dolphinariums in the country to consider some similar arrangement for the animals. The marine parks like SeaWorld have been taking critics as well about the lack of an orca sanctuaries, as reported by Fusion.
Welcoming the news
Animal rights’ groups such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), welcomed the decision announced by the National Aquarium by saying it that the organization recognizes that the needs of intelligent, sensitive, far-ranging dolphins just cannot be met in captivity.
“This spells the beginning of the end for dolphin captivity and the start of an age in which SeaWorld, the Miami Seaquarium, and other marine parks reject excuses not to retire long-suffering captive dolphins, including orcas, to sanctuaries,” the PETA stated in a press release.