The history and significance of the public display of marine mammals is a
It has been just a short 25 years since experts realized that something had to
be done to protect marine mammals and their habitats. At that time, whale and
dolphin populations were being decimated around the world by commercial
fishing, pollution, and human indifference to the consequences of their
individual actions. As hard as it might be to understand today, people didn't
care about these animals.
In the U.S., our Congress responded by passing the Marine Mammal Protection Act
in 1972, which, among other actions, helped stimulate advances in fishing
practices that have resulted in a huge reduction in the number of marine
mammals incidentally killed in fishing nets. In 1972--in one year-- an
estimated 400,000 dolphins died as a result of the tuna purse seine fishery in
the eastern tropical Pacific ocean alone. In 1995, that number dropped to
Our legislators also recognized that the public needed to learn about these
animals and that greater knowledge was necessary to protect them. Congress
urged public display facilities to foster public support for the conservation
of marine mammals through education programs and to invest in research to
increase our scientific understanding. Lawmakers understood that limiting the
extraordinary contributions of the public display community to the conservation
of these animals would have long-lasting and irreparable, negative results for
the country's marine wildlife and the people of United States.
In the marine mammal community, we passionately rare about marine mammals and
share them every day with thousands of children around the world, touching
their hearts and minds so they will learn to care as deeply as we do about the
conservation of marine wildlife. We believe that each child we reach can make
a contribution to a better environment for his or her children.
The people, in turn, believe in us. Marine life parks, aquanums, and zoos have
strong and committed support'from the public. A 1995 Roper poll shows that
nine out of 10 people believe these institutions are essential to educating the
public about marine mammals. Eighty-seven (87) percent say they wouldn't have
a chance to see these animals if they could not visit a public display
The Alliance is an international association representing approximately 40
marine life parks, aquariums, zoos, scientfic research facilities, and
professional organizations. Member institutions are dedicated to the
conservation of marine mammals and their environments through public display,
education, and research. Although the Alliance headquarters are in the United
States, almost 25 percent of our member facilities are located in other
countries around the world. Through the Alliance, public display facilities
are making a difference by getting this conservation message to the public as
well as legislators, regulators and the media, opinion leaders that can make a
difference for marine mammals and their environments.
Every Alliance member threads conservation themes throughout its park and
education programs, acquainting people, especially children, with the
importance of caring about marine mammals and the oceans that sustain them.
The fundamental need for this information was confirmed in the Roper poll. The
poll indicates that most people believe that the more they learn about these
animals, the more likely they are to fight to preserve them for generations to
Alliance members offer over 1500 special lectures, courses, and programs with
specafic conservation themes for both adults and children each year. Topics
range from coral reef ecology, oil spills, and ocean pollution to endangered
species, marine debris, stranded animals, and specific ecosystems.
In conjunction with government agencies, Alliance members throughout the world
work with manatees, vaquita, river dolphins, stellar sea lions, California sea
otters and Hawaiian monk seals--all species that are threatened or endangered--
working to stave off their extinction.
Without marine life parks, aquarium, and zoos, to whom would governments
turn to rehabilitate declining species like the Hawaiian monk seal pups that
must be weaned and cared for, sometimes a year or more? Who would help assess
the impact of environmental contaminants on immune and/or reproductive systems
of wild populations, such as St. Lawrence belugas, as Alliance members have
done for the Canadian government? Who would house and care for the sea lions
that have been jeopardizing the steelhead salmon stocks in Washington
Over 36 million adults and children walk through our institutions each
year and are exposed to the education information provided to the general
public through graphics, presentations, exhibits, and narrations
about marine mammals and other wildlife. But, we
don't stop there. About 100 million children, adults, and teachers are reached
annually through specially designed, on-site education programs and
educational messages distributed through computer learning programs,
publications, teacher aids, satellite television, and outreach programs
supported by our institutions.
Without marine life parks, aquariums, and zoos, who would effectively
educate our children, and their children, to care about marine wildlife? Who
would fund the learning materials, posters, booklets, fact sheets, and videos
or offer teacher training, college courses, and curriculums for science
courses? Who would garner the respect for these animals that engenders a
strong, active commitment to marine mammal conservation.for which the public
must ultimately shoulder the responsibility?
In the area of research, it cannot be emphasized enough that much-if not
most-of what we know about marine mammals today has been learned from
research at public display facilities.
Researchers were never certain of a killer whale's length of pregnancy
until reproductive studies could be conducted at marine life
parks. Yet this information is vital to understanding the
animals' ability to sustain a healthy population in the
Today it is possible to perform a complete diagnostic ultrasound body scan on a
wild dolphin in less than IS minutes. This technique has been used at the
request of our government in research studies to assess the health of
populations troubled with mass strandings or disease. Without years of being
able to study animals in aquariums and parks, without the ability to adapt
human technology to animals in controlled environments, this extraordinary,
non-invasive technique and others would simply not be available today to study
wild marine mammal populations-
Alliance members have spent an estimated $20 million on research over the last
five years alone -- research that is essential to understanding the behavior,
anatomy, and physiology of marine mammals; to rehabilitating stranded animals;
aiding the conservation of wild populations; and to learning to better manage
and assist endangered species.
Additionally, many Alliance facilities make their animals available to marine
mammal researchers from colleges, universities, and other scientific
institutions conducting noninvasive studies important to the animals'
conservation and health. Much of this research simply cannot be accomplished
in ocean conditions.
These studies have led to the development of vaccines and new methods of
treatment; improvements of techniques for anesthesia and surgery: tests for
toxic substances and their effects on wild marine mammals; and advancements in
diet, vitamin supplements, and neonatal feeding formulas.
However, there is still a tremendous amount we do not yet know.
Without public display facilities, who would cooperate with a university
studying manatee energetics to determine why manatees are vulnerable to cold
weather? This information is critical in deten-nining when Alliance members can
release hand-raised or orphaned animals safely into their natural habitat. Who
would participate in government studies to prevent marine mammals from gefting
entangled in gilinets or fund augmenting work on noise makers, which could
alert the animals to the presence of the nets?
Another crucial role of Alliance members is giving a hand and hope to stranded
animals. Over 1600 marine mammals were rescued, rehabilitated, and released
over the past five years by our member facilities, which voluntarily
participate in stranding networks. The medical advances and techniques
developed through our research is a huge benefit to these sick and injured
animals as we struggle to save their lives and return them to their natural
Alliance members are not reimbursed for the dedicated care they provide these
animals. Collectively our institutions spend more than a million dollars each
year helping stranded animals.
Without the marine life parks, aquariums, and zoos that participate in
voluntary stranding networks, who would care for stranded seals, sea otters,
manatees, and seals that find themselves sick or injured on our shores? Who
would continue the advances that have let to tihe successful rehabilitation and
release of a greater number of dolphins and whales in recent
years--animals that are generally very sick or injured when found?
Be assured that Alliance members take the collecting of and caring for animals
very seriously. There are approximately 450 whales and dolphins maintained in
all the institutions throughout North America. In 1996, 52 percent of the
killer whales and 46 percent of the dolphins on display were bom in these
Belugas, another commonly held species, have only been collected from Canada's
Hudson's Bay, mindful that other populations have been compromised, possibly by
environmental contaminants. The Hudson's Bay population is estimated by
Canadian officials to be about 25,000 animals. There are reportedly 50,000 to
70,000 belugas worldwide. The average annual native subsistence harvest of
these animals is 250-300 individuals each year. Just 34 beluga whales
are housed in zoological institutions-one bom just this year, bringing the
percentage bom in aquariums to about 18 percent.
In fact, only seven whales and/or dolphins have been collected for public
display in North America since 1990. On the average, that is about one
animal per year taken from the wild.
To put this in further perspective, over 8,000 cetaceans have stranded and died
in the waters of the Southeast U.S. in the last 17 years. No animals have been
removed from these U.S. waters in the last six-year period, while 4,692 animals
have died there as a result of stranding.
In contrast, the percentage of animals entering public display facilities'
inventories through births has skyrocketed. For all dolphins and whales, those
bom in zoological facilities were 8 percent in 1979, 26 percent in 1990, and 90
percent in 1995. This is one of the most striking trends in the management of
marine mammals, affirming the good health care given the animals, the quality
of their environments, and the success of our breeding programs.
Membership in the Alliance brings with it great responsibility-responsibil4 for
educating the public about marine mammals and their conservation,
responsibility for saving strnded animals, responsibility for funding research
that will help animals in our collections and in the wild. Membership also
brings with it a commitment to exceptional care for the animals. That means
being a responsible manager in assuring that the behavioral, medical, social,
and genetic needs of the animals are met.
A responsible facility fosters thoughtful exchanges to best manage the animals
in our collective care to provide for their social and behavioral needs as well
as breeding opportunities. While collections of animals from the wild are
minimal, that option must remain viable to sustain a healthy gene pool and to
provide the opportunity to help educate the public about new species of
animals. Responsible exchanges of terrestrial animals are common,
understanding that it is essential to use good breeding practices to assure the
health of any species. Likewise, people familiar with the raising of dogs or
horses understand the merits of breeding these animals for healthy pups and
foals. Inbreeding is not a responsible breeding practice as it results in
physical and medical complications. Marine mammals are no different. Whales
are no different. Wild populations are no different.
viewer discussion .
the debate .
inside seaworld .
other captive orcas .
ted griffin .
navy dolphins .
man & marine mammals .
press reaction .
tapes & transcripts
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