Mother dolphin kills her young to spare it a life in captivity
The love of a mother for her child is one of the most intuitive and intense emotions, particularly for mammals, whose child-rearing is more active than some other species simply by design. Among the most intelligent of animals, dolphins are no exception. The animals develop strong feelings for their family members, protect sick or weak members of the same species, and have even been known to have saved human lives. Mothers dote on their young and are very protective of them.
It was therefore all the more disturbing when it was discovered that Lulu the dolphin, who lived in the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium in Japan, killed her baby shortly after it had been born.
What at first seems inexplicable and cruel is understandable if you take a look at Lulu's life experience and living conditions. Lulu was one of countless dolphins that had been captured in Japan's Taiji Bay. While most of her comrades were slaughtered at the site for their meat, Lulu was left alive, but kept in the aforementioned aquarium where, confined to a tiny pool, she was condemned to live out the remainder of her existence.
— Sue Animal Friend (@suepi44) 9. Oktober 2015
Dolphins are highly intelligent creatures with very efficient brains. Lulu would never have been able to forget the massacre that she had witnessed and she also knew the difference between a life of freedom and one spent in captivity. Dolphins are incredibly fast swimmers. They can reach speeds of 34 miles an hour, stay underwater for 15 minutes at a time without having to draw breath, and can dive up to 1,000 feet deep — all skills that are fairly useless in an aquarium tank. Above all, the loss of her family must have left scars on her soul. When Lulu gave birth, she seemed intent on sparing her baby a life of captivity. How could she protect it when she herself lived as a prisoner? Shortly after bringing the baby into the world, she killed it. One has to hope that indeed this was an act of love, protecting her baby from a fate that she had tragically experienced herself.
Following other cases such as that of the orca Tilikum, subject of the documentary film "Blackfish," there's a growing worldwide movement against holding sea mammals in captivity on the basis that enclosed tanks can never be healthy for them, either physically or psychologically. According to PETA, dolphins can live 40 or 50 years in the wild, but more than 80% of captive dolphins die before they reach the age of 20. The statistics are even more grim for orcas, who can reach the age of 90 in the wild, but in captivity rarely live over 10 years. Although the popular SeaWorld entertainment parks have announced they are ending their orca breeding program, there are still hundreds of sea mammals who remain in captivity across the United States. The sea mammal protection organization WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) have an active petition to prevent airlines from transporting dolphins and other marine mammals captured in Japan's Taiji hunts to other countries.
That animals are kept in such conditions simply for human entertainment and profit is really incomprehensible. Forced to learn tricks and punished when they refuse, some animals are driven over the edge.
Lulu didn't want her baby to suffer this cruel fate with no hope of ever being able to swim free. The director of the aquarium where Lulu is kept speculated that the killing of offspring might occur because the animals don't know how to be good parents. But in the wild, this simply doesn't happen. Hopefully, cases such as this will help more people to understand that captivity is fully unsuitable for marine mammals and the practice of forcing them to perform in shows will come to an end. These lovely creatures deserve their freedom.