In Conversation with Ben Pearson – An Animal Advocate Changing the Tide for Dolphins

The wave of public opinion is shifting towards ending dolphin captivity and captive dolphin breeding through the efforts of World Animal Protection Australia, guided by their Senior Campaigns Manager Ben Pearson. 

A conversation with Pearson reveals the key ingredients and elements which underpin World Animal Protection’s campaign to create a better life for dolphins, by making the current generation of dolphins in marine parks the last to endure a lifetime in captivity. 

Informing and Educating People

Animals are important to humans and we should do our best to live with them in harmony. To do so, we need to promote the humane treatment of animals and discourage cruel and abusive practices that are prevalent throughout the world. 

Effective animal advocacy begins with helping the world see why animals are important to us.  Facilitating a change in attitudes towards them involves campaigning for animals to live free from cruelty and abuse.

Pearson is a pioneer of bringing about change for animals in his role, “Ignorance is at the heart of our campaigning, we inform and educate individual people. We inform and educate travel companies about the reality of animal tourism.” 

For World Animal Protection, raising awareness of the treatment of dolphins in captivity is the element which makes individuals and travel companies understand the realities of animal tourism. 

Raising Awareness of the Treatment of Dolphins

When asked what he would say to educate people about the treatment of animals in captivity, Pearson responds with “When I ask people how long a dolphin lives for, they say ‘10 years, 15 years maybe?’ Dolphins live for 50 years in captivity, which is something a lot of people don’t realise.” 

Dolphins in captivity are highly intelligent animals who live in small, chlorinated pools a world away from the wild. Dolphins in the wild have the freedom to engage in their natural behaviours; diving deeply, foraging, exploring and hunting for food. 

Pictured: Dolphins in captivity have a shorter life expectancy than those in the wild. 

Taking away dolphins from their natural environment makes them more susceptible to harm, with 52.6% of bottlenose dolphins born into captivity not surviving more than one year. Pearson reveals the impact that captivity has on dolphins, “What‘s the worst thing we do to someone when they are guilty of the worst crime? We incarcerate them, we deny them their liberty.” 

“The idea that a dolphin could live for 50 years in a barren pool is shocking. That is essentially what we are doing to these dolphins at SeaWorld and they have committed no crime.” 

World Animal Protection is working to change the course for dolphins in captivity, beyond making individuals and travel companies aware of the risks dolphins face in captivity. An ingredient for bringing about long-term change is encouraging marine parks to change their behaviour. 

Focus on Solutions

To make a transition away from dolphin captivity, World Animal Protection works directly with marine parks. This involves approaching them with their concerns and what they can do to make a change, getting their supporters to write to them and making an effort to speak to them. 

Pearson’s first campaign with World Animal Protection was encouraging Dolphin Marine Conservation Park, formerly known as Dolphin Marine Magic to better the lives of dolphins in captivity. For Pearson “It was an early victory, it yielded results and we have been building on that ever since.” 

On Thursday the 14th of March, Dolphin Marine Conservation Park announced that it will end captive breeding at its Coffs Harbour location. Pearson expresses supports their decision, “Dolphin Marine Conservation Park has been great, we have been talking to them for two years now and they have decided to join us in investigating the feasibility of a sea sanctuary for their dolphins.”

A challenge that World Animal Protection is currently facing is ending captive dolphin breeding at Sea World, one of Australia’s largest captive dolphin venues. Sea World is the only remaining venue in Australia where captive dolphin breeding takes place.  

Sea World is yet to recognise that the acceptability of keeping dolphins in captivity is declining. World Animal Protection has reached out to them with no avail, “Sea World in the Gold Coast doesn’t respond to our letters, which is disappointing.”

World Animal Protection hopes for a better future for captive dolphins at Sea World by mobilising support through letters, petitions and campaigns. An element which is integral to changing the practices of marine parks is collaborating with other organisations to show the power of many. 

Communiteer Supports A Better Future for Dolphins

Communiteer values being a supporter of World Animal Protection and we join them on their mission to move the world to protect animals while encouraging our supporters to influence Sea World via our online digital volunteering platform. 

We collaborate with World Animal Protection on our platform by creating a community of supporters for them, who can work together to make decisive action which furthers their cause. Volunteers can take part in their other projects and engage with people who share an interest in animal welfare. 

To take meaningful action for dolphins in captivity, we invite you to sign World Animal Protection’s online petition to ensure the Queensland Government bans captive breeding at Sea World and begins working on a sea sanctuary for dolphins who can’t be released into the wild. At Communiteer, we are proud signatories who hope that our actions can put animal protection on the global agenda. 

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