Photos from World Animal Protection
SeaWorld San Antonio has come under fire from the global charity, World Animal Protection, and Change For Animals Foundation for its use of marine mammals in circus-style shows and swim-with experiences, including making dolphins ‘breakdance’ on land and forcing sea lions to hold ‘lightsabers’ and re-enact scenes from the movie Star Wars.
As part of a first-of-its-kind study, ‘The show can’t go on’, the report shows that wild animals are being abused and forced to perform demeaning and unnatural tricks, ensuring appalling suffering at some of the world’s so-called ‘top’ zoos.
The research was conducted at zoos and aquariums that are members of The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the global umbrella organization for zoos and related institutions, that is supposed to guide, encourage and support venues in wild animal care and welfare.
The study reveals that of all WAZA’s 1,200 linked venues, 75% offer at least one animal visitor interaction, including some truly horrific cases. This is unacceptable as animals should never be used for so-called “entertainment” for humans or for their profit!
The research included field visits to a dozen zoos that showcase animals being cruelly used in demeaning experiences, focusing on big cats, dolphins, elephants, and primates. Specifically, the study discovered big cats in gladiator-style shows in large amphitheaters, dolphins being used like surfboards, elephants playing basketball and clothed chimps in diapers, driving around on scooters; all activities that would require cruel training techniques of these wild animals.
Among the twelve zoos highlighted, SeaWorld, in San Antonio, Texas, forces beluga whales to give rides to humans, ‘wave’ at audiences and act out scenes from famous motion pictures. Dolphins are made to ‘walk’ on their tails and perform choreographed routines set to music, and orcas are trained to ‘play catch’ and do flips.
Additionally, dolphins are trained to lunge out of the water to beach themselves as a background prop for photographs, exposing rake marks on their bodies. Trapped in tiny tanks, dolphins are unable to escape aggressive tankmates which can lead to major injuries and even death. Sliding out of the water and lifting their flukes puts an unnatural amount of pressure on dolphins’ bodies and beaching themselves for an extended amount of time would slowly crush their internal organs.
“It is troubling that in 2019 we still have venues such as SeaWorld San Antonio inflicting this level of suffering on wild animals and calling it entertainment. Witnessing wild animals perform in shows and used as photo props is unnatural and leads to a lifetime of suffering,” Executive Director Alesia Soltanpanah at World Animal Protection said in a statement, further noting that many of these deplorable attractions hide under the label of ‘conservation.’ “It is not ‘conservation’ to put animals in small tanks and force them to perform every day. That is called ‘cruelty’.”
In the absence of a single global regulatory body for wildlife tourism, visitors may unknowingly be putting their trust in WAZA-linked venues. World Animal Protection and Change For Animals Foundation want visitors to take a stand, be part of the solution, and boycott venues that offer cruel interactions. This will send out a clear message that treating animals this way is not acceptable.
The charities are also encouraging people to email WAZA at email@example.com, urging the organization stand up for animals suffering in member zoos and aquariums.
WAZA reportedly prides itself as an organization that sets the bar high for zoos aspiring to be modern and upholding high animal welfare standards. Their guidance states that members should not involve animals “in animal shows, displays or interactive experiences where animals perform demeaning and unnatural behaviors.”
Yet, this study, exposes how WAZA is not enforcing rules and zoos are falling seriously short of their commitments to animal welfare.
The twelve venues visited are:
Dolphin Island (Resort World Sentosa) – Singapore
Zoo D’Amneville – France
Jungle Cat World – Canada
African Lion Safari – Canada
Cango Wildlife Ranch – South Africa
Sea World – Australia
SeaWorld – San Antonio, USA
Zoo Marine – Portugal
Puy du Fou – France
Avilon Zoo – Philippines
Mystic Monkeys & Feather Wildlife Park – South Africa
Ichicara Elephant Kingdom – Japan