Friday, June 1, 2007

Freedom vs Captivity

Whales, such as belugas, bottlenose dolphins and orcas are wild, far-ranging, highly social animals. They belong in the world's oceans, not the small, sterile, chemically-treated tanks of an amusement park.

These animals do not volunteer. Wild whales are forcibly taken from their homes and families while captive-born whales are removed from their mothers too soon.

Some whales, unable to cope with the stress of captivity, become sick or develop abnormal behaviours,including depression and suicide attempts. Others become aggressive towards other whales and even humans. At least 18 whales have died at a local marine park since 1999.

In the Wild, female orcas are thought to live up to 80 years and males about 60 years. Belugas and dolphins can live up to 30 and 50 years respectively.

In Captivity, whales and dolphins live only a fraction of this time, an average of 11 years. According to recent statistics, 53% of dolphins die within the first 90 days of their captivity and the mortality rate for newly-captured dolphins shoots up six-fold in the first five days.

In the Wild, orcas can travel up to 100 miles (160 km) a day, swim as fast as 30 miles (50km) an hour and dive hundreds of feet below the oceans' surface.

In Captivity, whales and dolphins can swim for only a few seconds before reaching the other side of their tank. An orca would have to swim back and forth across a standard tank several thousand times a day to cover the same distance.

In the Wild, whales and dolphins use sound waves (echolocation) to navigate, locate other whales and find food.

In Captivity, the whale tanks are many times noisier than the ocean. The glass and concrete walls inhibit the natural use of sound by whales and dolphins. Sound waves hit the walls of the tank and bounce back to the whales in a meaningless jumble of noise, disorienting them.

Marine Parks also keep an assortment of other animals for public exhibition. For a price people can feed and interact with some of them. Like the whales, dolphins and other marine mammals on display, these animals live in unnatural, artificial enclosures which severely restrict their behaviours.

In the Wild, black bears are solitary animals who spend much of their time digging at tree-roots and turning over logs in search of food. Their range is up to 50 square miles (80 sq. km) for females and three times this size for the average male.

In Captivity, dozens of bears live in closed quarters not much larger than a football field. These enclosures are mostly devoid of trees, logs or any other natural diversions which would provide the necessary physical and psychological stimulation.
In the Wild, fallow deer enjoy the natural shade of tall trees, tall grass and other foliage as well as ready access to drinking water from natural sources such as streams and rivers.

In Captivity, the deer live in barren 'desert-like' pens without sufficient shade or other protection from the elements. Water basins are scarce, and competition for the hand-outs of food is fierce. This causes in-fighting, which may result in injury.

In the Wild, black bears are omnivorous, enjoying a varied diet of fish, insects, fruits, berries and other vegetation.

In Captivity, bears are fed nutritionally deficient marshmallows and pre-sweetened cereals in uncontrolled and unsupervised feedings by the public, causing dangerous competition amongst the bears often resulting in fighting, injuries and even death.

In the Wild, deer are shy, nervous animals who stay away from people and hide from predators under the cover of tall grasses and forest underbrush.

In Captivity, the deer have no privacy or 'space' in their open enclosure, providing no safe place to escape from curious on-lookers and seemingly 'aggressive' actions of excited children.

In the Wild, black bears seek out fresh water streams and ponds from which to drink and cool off on hot summer days.

In Captivity, bears have been regularly seen wallowing in dirty, stagnant water, laden with feces and urine in an effort to keep cool on hot days or to beg for food.