The National Aquarium announced that it is considering no longer having dolphins on exhibit, shining a light on the debate over whether keeping animals of such high intelligence in captivity is cruel.
via Huffington Post:
The aquarium is considering moving the eight mammals from the Dolphin Discovery amphitheater to an ocean-side sanctuary at an undetermined location. It has hired a team of consultants to examine the issue as part of a broader strategic assessment to ensure a “healthy future for the nonprofit institution and its animals.”
“After 33 years, it’s time,” said John Racanelli, who runs the aquarium. “The era of modern aquariums began here in 1981, and a lot has changed.
“We know so much more today about the animals and about our evolving audience — and frankly how urgent the need has become to protect the health of oceans and the Chesapeake Bay. As a conservation organization first and foremost, we have to evolve.”
The aquarium is one of Baltimore’s biggest tourist attractions with 1.3 million visitors a year.
As part of the assessment, called BLUEprint, the consultants also have been asked to consider how to reimagine the aquarium experience, whether the aquarium should establish an “ocean embassy” in Washington and what role aquariums should play in caring for animals and the environment.
No timeline has been set to conclude the evaluation, which the nonprofit characterized as ambitious and far-reaching. The assessment is expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars, Racanelli said.
Simply asking whether dolphins should be kept in captivity makes the National Aquarium more progressive than other aquatic attractions, said Lori Marino, an Emory University neuroscientist and research associate with the Smithsonian Institution.