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Wild dolphins belong in the wild. Period.

Alexandra Cousteau-Dolphins by Steve McCulloch.jpgI am leaving tomorrow for Central America and will be in Panama next week to talk with policy makers, NGOs, and the media about a proposed project to capture up to 80 wild dolphins for display in a local water park. Imagine that—80 dolphins.

Dolphin populations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (the coastal region that stretches from the west coast of Mexico down to Ecuador) have been decimated over the years by harmful tuna fishing practices. Even today, when more care is taken to make sure the dolphins are freed from the nets, those populations are not coming back. Some scientists think that the trauma the dolphins experience when they are taken in the nets is preventing them from being able to reproduce normally. To be honest, I am not surprised.

Think about it. Dolphins are highly social and intelligent animals that live in tightly knit family groups. Chasing them with boats, netting them, separating mothers from their babies—that's bad enough. But taking dolphins from the freedom of the ocean and the comfort of their family to put them in a swimming pool where they have to learn to eat dead fish and do tricks for tourists is just wrong. I know people love dolphins—but is it right to hurt them so that we can spend a few moments with them in a water park? People I know who have been on what they call a "dolphin collection" told me that the process of capturing a wild dolphin is like a "kidnap" and a "rape." Sometimes the ones left behind chase the boats leaving with a captured dolphin until exhaustion, calling out to the dolphin on the boat, following until they can't follow anymore. How can we, as a society, feel good about this?

I have seen dolphins in the wild. I have spent hours swimming with them. Wild dolphins belong in the wild. Period.

So, I am going to Panama to add my voice to those who want to stop this project. What do you think?? If you agree with me, please visit Marine Connection and send the President of Panama a letter! Ask your friends and family to do the same. Please help me! It really would make a HUGELY positive difference.