India’s Animal Welfare Board Advises ‘No’ on Dolphinariums

In an important step toward advocacy for dolphins, the Animal Welfare Board of India has advised state governments and wildlife wardens to oppose any efforts to capture or transport dolphins or to keep dolphins, porpoises or whales in captivity. The Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory board to the Indian government on matters relevant to animal welfare.

The board ruled that dolphin shows and exhibits would violate the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The national advisory is in response to commercial efforts to set up five dolphin theme parks across India. These facilities would set a dangerous precedent in a country with a disastrous record of caring for dolphins in captivity. There have been no captive dolphins in India since 1998, when a small pod of dolphins held at Dolphin City amusement park died within six months of capture.

Kimmela has been working with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO) to provide the scientific evidence that shows dolphins and whales fare very poorly in captivity, suffering from stress-related diseases and behavioral abnormalities, and that counters the claim that dolphin displays are educational (Marino et al. 2010). FIAPO argues that not only is there no educational value to dolphin displays, but there is “reason to believe that captive cetacean attractions actually mis-educate the public about wildlife and the marine environment”.

“There is reason to believe that captive cetacean attractions actually mis-educate the public about wildlife and the marine environment.”

Kimmela is also working with FIAPO and two collaborating organizations, Earth Island Institute and Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, to supply the rigorous scientific foundation for public outreach materials on the welfare status of captive cetacean species in dolphinariums worldwide. These materials will provide the Indian public with information critical to understanding why the dolphinariums should be opposed.

The response of the Animal Welfare Board of India is an important milepost and very encouraging sign to dolphin advocates. But there is still much work to be done as the statement is not binding and is being challenged by the pro-dolphinarium contingent. We continue efforts to shore up public opposition to the dolphinariums and provide unassailable evidence that India’s government cannot ignore as the fight over dolphinariums continues.

“We’re taking big strides forward in being the most compassionate nation on Earth,” said Arpan Sharma, chief executive of FIAPO. Kimmela will continue to help FIAPO move this statement closer to reality than ever before.