Massive Victory for Dolphins and Their Protectors
The MoEF’s decision to ban dolphins in captivity is a massive victory for wildlife lovers, animal rights activists and environmental groups who have been campaigning against a number of projects that were in the pipeline in different parts of India. According to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, “If an oceanarium is finally set up in Miramar, as ambitiously thought of but not pursued vigorously by the Goa government since the 1990s, it may not have dolphins as the star attraction."
The Government of Kerala had decided to establish an Oceanarium and Marine Research centre in Puthuvypu in Ernakulam District of Kochi. A similar project was also undertaken by the government of Maharashtra and the Government of Goa. They aimed at promoting eco-tourism and marine research, however, they failed to notice the more pressing and important matter on hand. The very heart and soul of these projects was transporting dolphins and keeping them in captivity in these aquariums.
Dolphins are highly sensitive creatures. They live in a complex social structure that is balanced on a very delicate hierarchy that man still hasn’t deciphered. Dolphins are also intelligent creatures that are very dynamic in nature. On an average a dolphin travels 70-80 kilometres a day. You don’t need a marine expert to tell you that a dolphin won’t survive in captivity. Dolphins require their own space and freedom, hence keeping a dolphin in captivity is an illogical and unscientific move. More importantly, transporting and keeping a dolphin captive is more dangerous than it sounds. 53 per cent of dolphins die within the first three months of confinement. Dolphins cannot adjust to an artificial environment. Research suggests that 95 per cent of the dolphins die due to man and his activities. And one of the main reasons is the confinement of dolphins in such aquariums. It comes as a massive relief to all dolphin lovers that the government has been forced to concede their project.
The capture of dolphins itself is a very dangerous project. The capture procedure sometimes leads to the entanglement of dolphins in the fishing nets. The transport of dolphins makes them susceptible to numerous diseases. When in confinement, dolphins are exposed to extremely hazardous chemicals. They are also exposed to drilling noises, sonar navigation, ship engines and construction work, all causing severe health problems. Sometimes excessive noise even leads to the disorientation of dolphins. When in captivity, dolphins swim monotonously in circles. This is the first sign of physiological distress. Restricted areas create behavioural disorders for dolphins as they find it impossible to adjust to the new habitat. Sometimes trainers even withhold food in order to make dolphins perform tricks to entertain. This causes severe mental damage and leads to the collapse of the dolphin’s Immune system. It is very clear, that dolphins should not be kept in confinement.
Besides the obvious flaw in the project, there was plenty of collateral damage too. These projects would have severely affected the local fishing communities and the tribals as well. The locals would have had to be displaced from their homes and they would have had to relocate. This is easier said than done, as most tribes lose their identity with their territory and once relocated, they lose interest in life. India has one of the worst rehabilitation programs to help such tribes to relocate in different areas and if the government had gone ahead with their project, entire villages would have had to relocate to safer areas.
These three projects in Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra had to be stopped. Had they gone ahead, they would have paved the way for several other projects to pop up in various regions. It was absolutely essential to prevent these three projects and the wildlife activists gave 100 per cent to ensure that this was the case. In the end, it was indeed a great feat achieved by the wildlife activists to prevent the oceanariums from being established.
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Author: Debashish Goenka