|By Helene O'Barry|
Born Free: Dolphins in the
Dolphin Fantaseas is an Anguilla-based company that
was founded in 1998 under the name Dolphin Lagoon Inc. In January
2001 the company acquired six wild-caught Cuban dolphins, of which
three were sent to the island of Antigua to be used in a commercial
captive dolphin programme.
Dolphin Fantaseas poses a serious
threat to the welfare of dolphins in that the company is causing an
increase in the captures, lifelong confinement, and commercial
exploitation of dolphins. As a direct result of the activities
carried out by Dolphin Fantaseas, many more dolphins will be
captured from the wild and brokered through the company to be sent
to the many hotels and resorts in the Caribbean. It is with great
sadness that I learn that Dolphin Fantaseas is now expanding their
business to St Lucia.
Why is Dolphin Fantaseas confining wild
dolphins? If you look at the website of Dolphin Fantaseas you will
see that their alleged main purpose is to “give people the
opportunity to gain an understanding of this fascinating mammal.”
The key to understanding why captivity of dolphins is wrong is
understanding what dolphins are like in nature.
dolphins enjoy the ability to move freely. Their streamlined bodies
and smooth skin enable them to gain fast speed, and bottlenose
dolphins are always on the move, swimming up to 40 miles a day. They
can hold their breath for as long as 20 minutes and dive to depths
of more than 1,640 feet.
In captivity dolphins are restricted to
the size of their tank or enclosure. Deprived of expressing their
natural abilities they can only swim a few feet before a wall or a
fence stops them.
In nature dolphins constantly explore their
ocean environment by sending out bursts of sound of many different
frequencies. With reflected sound, called echolocation or sonar,
dolphins can detect elements that are invisible for animals that are
sight oriented, depending on reflected light for vision. The use of
sonar is as important to dolphins as eyesight to humans. Dolphins
rely on sonar in almost every aspect of their daily lives.
captivity dolphins are severely restricted in using their sonar.
They can’t use it to catch live fish as they are fed dead fish as
food rewards. They can’t put it to full use to explore their
underwater world because there isn’t much to explore in a barren,
concrete tank or a small cage in the sea. They certainly can’t use
it to navigate, because they aren’t going anywhere. Sensory
deprivation is one of the most damaging aspects of keeping dolphins
In nature most dolphins spend their entire lives in
the company of dolphins of their own kind, living in groups known as
pods. Some pods consist of females and their offspring; others of
young males who—when they reach maturity—leave their mother’s pod to
form their own. Dolphins are intelligent and social animals.
Belonging to a pod is important to them because this is where they
find safety, love, and companionship.
In captivity dolphins are
forever separated from the pod they naturally belong to. Instead,
they are forced to live in an artificial “pod,” designed by humans
for commercial reasons. During the capture, the strong social bonds
that the dolphins have enjoyed and nurtured for years are abruptly
and permanently destroyed.
The word “capture” clashes with the
superficial surroundings of the captive dolphin swim programme, and
it is therefore understandable that Dolphin Fantaseas doesn’t give
the public the details about how their dolphins ended up in
captivity. The truth is, the capture of dolphins is an extremely
violent procedure. Different capture methods are used for different
species of dolphins. One of the methods used to capture bottlenose
dolphins—the species that Dolphin Fantaseas uses—is this: Pods of
dolphins are chased to exhaustion, surrounded with a net and dragged
onto the boat where the capture team searches through the terrified
group for the specimen they want. The lucky ones are thrown
overboard. Those selected are taken ashore, and they will never see
their ocean world and their pod again. In some incidents, dolphins
have been separated from their calves, regardless of the fact that a
bottlenose dolphin normally protects and remains with her calf for
about five years. During this time they nurture a relationship
characterised by profound affection. The violent and permanent
separation no doubt represents a traumatic experience for both
mother and calf, and it is hardly surprising that dolphins have died
from capture shock.
In an article published in the St Lucia STAR
September 25, Dolphin Fantaseas boasts that their company is “run by
a group of people that have in excess of 80 years combined
experience handling and caring for marine mammals.”
statement is laughable at best. Dolphins, in comparison, have
evolved over more than 50 million years! Having adapted perfectly to
their vast marine environment, they hardly need to be captured,
“cared for,” and trained in how to be dolphins by so-called
“experienced” staff members at Dolphin Fantaseas.
contrary, the dolphin “care” that Dolphin Fantaseas can provide
consists of a brutal capture, lifelong confinement, and hours of
training in abnormal behaviours. These three aspects of dolphin
captivity clearly violate a dolphin’s most fundamental behavioural
requirements. The dolphins held captive by Dolphin Fantaseas will
never swim in a straight line for as long as they desire; nor will
they ever be able to use their speed, intelligence, sonar, and sense
of cooperation to catch live fish. They will never again experience
what it means to be a real dolphin, in a dolphin’s real world—the
open sea. By human design these free-ranging and complex marine
mammals will be confined to a very small space where, for the rest
of their lives, they will have to satisfy a never-ending line of
tourists demanding a close-up encounter with an exotic animal.
this cruel? Of course it is. Yet Dolphin Fantaseas will have you
believe that what they are doing to the dolphins is right. They will
even go as far as to say that, guess what, they are capturing and
confining dolphins to teach you, the consumer, respect for nature!
That is the height of hypocrisy that the dolphin captivity industry
is based upon. Sadly, many people buy into the deception, and that’s
what nourishes the profits made from dolphin captivity.
to justify the commercial exploitation of dolphins, the dolphin
captivity industry will sometimes make the statement that life in
the sea is so stressful for dolphins, they are far better off being
captured and used in dolphin shows and swim programmes. “If you are
a dolphin you don’t know where your next meal will come from; when
you are going to run into a hungry shark or killer whale; where the
next drift net is or what pollutants humans have dumped into the
ocean,” says Dolphin Fantaseas. That’s like saying a humanbeing
would be better off never leaving his house out of fear of being hit
by a car. But living is doing things. It is expressing who and what
you are by living in accordance with your true nature and, in doing
so, letting all of your natural skills unfold. For a dolphin, this
means chasing fish, surfing, diving deep, navigating, foraging,
socialising with pod members, and moving in a straight line mile
Yes, we need to stop polluting the oceans. We need to
stop drift-netting and over-fishing. And we need to stop capturing,
exploiting, and killing dolphins for casual amusement. To add to the
destruction of nature by capturing dolphins is not going to solve
any of our environmental problems. The contrary is true: It enforces
the widespread misconception that nature and its inhabitants exist
for humans to make use of as we please. Captive dolphin swim
programmes only serve to perpetuate our insidious, utilitarian
perception of nature.
Despite all the obvious reasons why
dolphins don’t belong in captivity—reasons that Dolphin Fantaseas
interestingly enough simply dismisses as “a variety of personal
reasons”—the company, on their website, goes on to say about
dolphins that they are “powerful ambassadors of their species, and
we are obligated to safeguard their natural sea-lifestyles.”
I’m not kidding, that’s precisely what they say: “We are obligated
to safeguard their natural sea-lifestyles.” And this statement comes
from a company that makes its living doing the exact opposite! Their
business is based on capturing dolphins from the wild, separating
them from their pod members and their natural environment; in other
words, it is based on permanently destroying the dolphins’ natural
sea-lifestyles. This is yet another example of how the captive
dolphin industry supplies the public with information that one must
suspect was designed to mislead rather than educate.
In the St
Lucia STAR, Dolphin Fantaseas makes a point out of emphasising that
there are a lot of tourist dollars to be made from captive dolphins.
Personally, I have no doubts that when it comes to calculating the
desired profits made from charging people to swim with captive
dolphins, Dolphin Fantaseas knows what they are talking about. After
all, that’s what the trade in dolphins is all about: Money.
any other business, the billion-dollar dolphin trade is based on
supply and demand. As long as there is a paying audience to sustain
the profits of the dolphin captivity industry, dolphins will be
captured from the wild and captive dolphin breeding programmes will
be intensified. Ultimately, the consumers are the dolphins’ only
hope. As a consumer, you can help abolish dolphin shows, dolphin
swim programmes, and other forms of dolphin exploitation. It’s easy:
Don’t buy a ticket!
Natalie Auguste, thankful for
EMSI’sassistance, is urging parents to sign their children
into the programme
Desruisseaux resident Natalie Auguste could scarcely move around.
She gasped for breath at every step and caring for her baby daughter
Continually fighting to breathe, and
experiencing severe chest pains, Auguste visited her doctor. After
several tests, the young mother was informed in February this year
that she was suffering from a clogged heart valve.
said this condition develops as an after-effect of rheumatic fever,”
she told the STAR. “But I couldn’t recall having such an illness.
Perhaps it occurred during my childhood.” Her doctors recommended
surgical treatment in neighbouring Martinique.
approached her health insurers.
“My company is connected to the
Emergency Medical Services Institute and I was told that I would be
transferred to that organisation’s health programme,” Auguste said.
“They told me that EMSI patients are flown to Florida and given the
best doctors and the best possible care.”
Auguste travelled to
the US on August 17 for surgery which took place on September 6. She
returned to the island last Tuesday and has nothing but praise for
the EMSI team.
“Since I’ve been back I can leave my home and I
can breathe. The EMSI personnel were wonderful. I think the
government should move ahead quickly to implement the juvenile
“And parents shouldn’t hesitate to sign their children
into the programme. I am very thankful that I got enrolled and I
would recommend it to everyone. If it wasn’t for EMSI I would have
really considered myself lost.”
Last month another EMSI patient,
sixteen-year-old Quent Fanis returned to St Lucia after treatment in
the US for liver damage as a result of medication he was given here.
The teen was misdiagnosed as having a brain tumor. The “brain
abnormality” seen in his brain scan was actually a scar from a
Local EMSI representative Emmanuel Adlain is conducting
sensitisation meetings at schools and Parent/Teachers Associations
|By STAR Reporter|
The family of Agnes Smith, missing since Tuesday
last week, say reports that the 45-year-old woman was found on
Friday are untrue.
Smith’s daughter-in-law told the STAR
yesterday that the lady was still considered missing. No one saw
when she left the home she shared with her husband, a daughter and
“We noticed that Agnes was not around from about 1pm
that day,” said Beausoliel. “But we did not think anything of it. We
assumed that she had gone to her garden near the house. She never
left without telling someone where she was going.”
family member to have seen Smith was her son who said he asked her
for some soap.
“I spoke to her as well that day,” said Ms
Beausoliel, “it was about 11 am. When she did not return later that
day we began to get worried and looked around for. When we did not
find her we went to the police.
“We’ve looked everywhere but
there’s no sign of her. The police returned about three times last
week. We are thinking about putting up photographs of her at various
places around the island.”
The concerned woman said Smith had
left a handwritten note in which said good-bye to her children, who
range in age from 28 to 16 years, and her three brothers. She had
also requested that her daughters be taken care of.
The family is
reportedly still in shock, not eating or sleeping, since Smith’s
“Her husband is not the same person,” said
Beausoliel. “He doesn’t eat or sleep. Everyone is still very worried
about what could have happened to Agnes.
“I have no idea where
she might have gone or why she did this. She was always smiling and
happy and never showed that she had any problems. But then you never
know what’s killing the person inside.”
Smith’s family has
appealed for anyone with information or who may have seen the woman
to come forward.