In a move that is centered on rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured marine animals back into the wild — not holding them captive for display — Clearwater marine Aquarium (CMA) in Florida has announced plans to drop animal shows from their roster.
Every year, the aquarium rescues dozens of injured dolphins, turtles and other animals from the Florida coast, providing them with the care they need before setting them free. Despite this noble mission, animal welfare activists have voiced criticism over the aquarium’s handling of animals deemed unfit for release, likening their “educational” dolphin viewings to thinly veiled entertainment performances. But those performances appear to be coming to an end.
As the aquarium hopes to move forward with plans to build a new $68 million facility in downtown Clearwater, CEO David Yates says that it will be designed to embrace a different approach to dealing with the animals housed there.
“We don’t rescue them so we can have them to show to guests. Our goal is to release them back into the wild,” Yates told the Tampa Tribune. “We’re not about the big shows and stuff like that. The whole essence of this thing is no matter what animals we have or don’t have, the experience of getting behind the scenes of our work, that’s going to be the draw long-term.”
While the decision to end its animal shows may come as welcome news among people who see them as inherently exploitative, their continued presence at the aquarium is likely to remain a point of controversy. Gigi Glendinning, from animal welfare group 22 Reasons, is critical of the aquarium for showcasing rescued dolphins in pools at all, arguing that if they are unable to return to the wild, they should at least be moved to sea pens and not be put on display for profit.
Full story: The Dodo