SeaWorld: 3 Dolphin Deaths in 3 Weeks: What Can Be Done?

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SeaWorld: 3 Dolphin Deaths in 3 Weeks: What Can Be Done?

By Heather Moore on
July 2009

Not too many people have heard about the three dolphins who died at SeaWorld Discovery Cove in less than three weeks time. Although thereís a big fuss when a dolphin is born at SeaWorld, the theme park tends to be pretty tight-lipped when a dolphin dies. But a whistleblower told PETA that Dixie, a dolphin used in Discovery Coveís "swim with the dolphins" attraction, gave birth to a stillborn infant on July 9. The whistleblower alleges that, even though Discovery Cove knew that the birth was imminent, a veterinarian was not summoned during or after the birth.

A SeaWorld dolphin doing "tricks"

A similar incident reportedly occurred in June. A pregnant dolphin named Scarlet, who was also used in the Discovery Cove swim-with program, went into labor on approximately June 15 or 16, but never gave birth. She expelled only blood. A veterinarian was present this time, but he could not get his arm inside Scarlet's womb to pull the baby out. After her calf apparently died in utero, Scarlet was placed in a tank in the back of the park. She died on June 21. A necropsy report revealed that Scarletís uterus had ruptured, releasing the calf into her body cavity.

PETA has asked the USDA to investigate both incidents to determine if SeaWorld was in any way responsible, and, if so, to charge them accordingly. Theme parks are responsible for providing captive dolphins with adequate prenatal care and pain relief when appropriate. Three dead dolphins in three weeks is an appallingly high mortality rate, and itís unconscionable that a veterinarian allegedly was not present when Dixie gave birth, or to check on her following the birth.

Dolphins die in the wild too, of course, and no one can be held accountable, but if SeaWorld wants to tout its "dolphin nursery" to the public, as it does on its Web site, it should not remain mum when dolphins die.

If you know anyone who works in the aquarium or zoo industry and suspects negligence or abuse, encourage them to report it at Zoo Insiders, or by calling 1-866-ZOO-TIPS. And if you know anyone who is planning a trip to Discovery Cove, tell them about the three dolphins who died recently. They won't find out about them in the park's promotional materials.

Regardless if Discovery Cove is held accountable for the dolphin deaths or not, itís one "attraction" I wonít be visiting. I went to SeaWorld when I was younger, thinking I was learning about marine mammals. But I know now that I only saw empty shells of marine mammals.

In their natural habitats, dolphins swim together in family pods and travel up to 100 miles each day. In marine parks, they are kept in tiny tanks that bear little resemblance to their ocean homes. Gimmicky swim-with programs and marine mammal shows benefit theme parks, not marine mammals. To learn more about marine theme parks, including Discovery Cove, and find out what you can do to help marine mammals, visit Dolphin Project.

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