A new video showing a captive dolphin continuously ramming their head against a tank wall in Singapore has been released by Empty The Tanks a U.S. based org that have the goal of ending dolphin captivity.
Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) S.E.A. Aquarium where the video takes place was visited on December 5th by an anonymous person. They were concerned by the dolphins “disturbing behavior” so they decided to record it.
“We have shared this video on social media in the hopes of bringing more attention to the plight of these sentient animals that continue to suffer in captivity.” said Rachel Carbary Founder of Empty the Tanks.
The video has been viewed nearly half a million times so far and has been shared nearly 3,000 times since being posted by the animal rights group last Sunday.
The Straits Times contacted the RWS S.E.A. Aquarium for comment but a spokesperson said they were unable to confirm that the video came from their attraction and that they were not aware of such an incident taking place.
The Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) at the National Parks Board had a team lead by Dr Chua Tze Hoong said they visited the aquariums dolphin facility on Thursday and saw no “abnormal” behavior during their observations.
Dr Chua Tze Hoong added that he takes a “serious view” on making certain that animal businesses meet all requirements and licensing to meet the animal health and welfare standards.
In the video a bottlenose dolphin is seen slamming their head against the tank wall nine times in less that 30 seconds.
“This distressing behaviour is one of the many reasons dolphins do not belong in captivity,” read the caption that accompanied the video post.
In a statement to ST, RWS said: “At Dolphin Island, we allow our dolphins to swim on their own or in groups at different timings where they can explore and interact with one another in our large interconnecting lagoons which can be differently reconfigured to encourage play and socialisation.”
The U.S. based Animal Welfare Institute’s Dr. Naomi Rose (a marine mammal scientist) gave her view of the video saying:
“This kind of repetitive, pointless, even self-damaging behaviour is the essence of stereotypy. It is a sign of boredom, neurosis, depression. It’s hard to say exactly what is going on here, but it’s definitely a sign of poor emotional health,”
Dr. Rose said that dolphins in captivity are being denied the ability to express their natural behaviors like swimming in a straight line for miles or diving deeper than 90 feet. They can’t hunt or forage for live prey that gives them a social group activity they are used to expressing.
The lack of being able to express these behaviors creates a monotonous life of boredom that leads to depression and other health issues.
Executive director of the SPCA Dr Jaipal Singh Gill said after seeing the video they sadly weren’t surprised to see that a wild animal being kept imprisoned was showing signs of distress.
“We have to ask what educational value there is in a scenario where wild animals are taken from their home and family, and placed in a tiny facility for the sake of human entertainment and corporate profits. No man-made tank can come anywhere close to replicating the natural environment these animals are found in… We stand by our position that the dolphins should never have been brought into the country in the first place.”
The SPCA has been campaigning against RWS since they kidnapped wild dolphins into captivity in 2010. They campaigned again in 2014 after another dolphin died in their care bringing the total deaths up to four in May of that year.
The World Animal Protection organization put out a report in July of this year stating that RWS’ dolphin attraction violated the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) animal welfare guidelines.
Under WAZA guidelines members must “avoid using animals in any interactive experiences when their welfare may be compromised”.
The RWS’ dolphin attraction has been a WAZA member since 2014 and has violated the rules for the swim with dolphins program. The author of the WAZA report Dr. Neil D’Cruze said:
“During swim with dolphins’ interactions, visitors’ fingernails and jewellery can damage dolphins’ delicate skin. The presence of people in their enclosures can also increase the animals’ stress levels. Since dolphins carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and vice versa, direct interactions can transmit pathogens and leave visitors, staff and animals all susceptible to the spread of disease.”