Dolphins in Captivity vs. Dolphins in the Wild

Text and Video From YouTube Channel: dolphin5297 , Zach Affolter

Learn about the differences between dolphins in captivity and dolphins in the wild…


In the wild, dolphins jump on their own free will. In the wild, dolphins and other whales:

  • dolphins in the wild image

    Dolphins in the Wild

    Have home ranges (e.g. orcas can dive as deep as 60m and travel as far as 160km in a day and bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Cornwall, UK, have been recorded to travel up to 1076km in 20 days).

  •  Are almost always in motion, even when resting and spend less than 20% of their time at the water’s surface. Orcas and Dall’s porpoise are two of the fastest animals in the sea (Dall’s porpoises can reach swimming speeds of up to 35mph).
  • Live in highly complex societies; with some individuals holding key roles within a specific group (e.g. communicator with other pods, nursing).
  • Choose to form strong, long-lasting social bonds with certain other members of their pod.
  • Are intelligent and can demonstrate problem solving and abstract concept formation, e.g. utilise tools — female bottlenose dolphins in Australia have learned to use natural sponges to protect their beaks while foraging among sea urchins on the sea bed.
  • Are altruistic, some species have been witnessed helping other members of their pod, other species and even humans in trouble. They are self-aware and display highly responsive behavior.
  • Have culture i.e. they teach and learn traditions (e.g. Patagonian orcas partially strand themselves to catch sea-lions).
  • Demonstrate a high degree of vocal adaptability e.g. orcas in different parts of the world have completely different dialects from one another.


In captivity, dolphins and other whales:

  • Dolphin in captivity Zoo Lisbon image

    Dolphin in captivity

    Are separated from their natural habitat and enclosed in a totally alien environment.

  • Have to undergo medication and fertility control. Aquatic Mammals 2005, 31 (3) lists 199 facilities worldwide. More have established since then.
  • Have to put up with an artificial diet, unusual noise, strange odors and the proximity of people and other unfamiliar captive animals.
  • No longer have free will to choose social bonds.
  • May suffer aggression from other pool mates more dominant than them.
  • Are sometimes kept on their own (some in hotel swimming pools), e.g. four orcas are currently held in captivity on their own.
  • Suffer from stress, reduced life expectancy and breeding problems. The Marine Mammal Inventory Report, maintained by the U.S. government, lists a variety of causes of death including drowning, ingestion of foreign objects and aggression from pool mates

The facts are plain – most dolphins and whales are not born in captivity, and with breeding rates unable to meet the need to restock facilities, dolphins and whales continue to be captured from the wild. You can help captive dolphins and the slaughter of thousands of these incredible creatures by not supporting dolphinaria.

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  1. Kids Stand Against Dolphin Captivity « Ocean News

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