On Oct. 15 in Scottsdale, Arizona, a foreign-owned aquarium featuring eight bottlenose dolphins—shipped to the desert from California and Mexico—will have its grand opening celebration. At Dolphinaris Arizona, the general public can pay for “dolphin experiences” that allow visitors to interact with dolphins directly in their small tanks. Animal advocates from Arizona and all over the world are rightfully outraged over the exploitation of these cognitively and emotionally complex animals.
Dolphinaris Arizona acknowledges the “amazing capacity” of dolphins, including their intelligence. However, Dolphinaris Arizona completely ignores the ethical imperatives of ever-evolving scientific understanding of this species. Precisely because dolphins are so cognitively and emotionally complex, they do not belong in captivity, and allowing humans to swim with them in tanks is neither an ethical nor an effective path to conservation and education. Rather, it is a ruse designed to make money while soothing visitors’ consciences.
What Dolphinaris Arizona calls “[making] friends from another world” we call a clear violation of these dolphins’ fundamental right to bodily liberty. The Nonhuman Rights Project calls on the public to refuse to patronize any business that exploits these extraordinary beings, help end the use of dolphins in entertainment, and to join efforts to release captive dolphins to seaside sanctuaries or, when possible, their natural habitats.