The month of March is when we celebrate and raise awareness for dolphins – our extremely intelligent friends with big, bubbly personalities. These beautiful marine animals are known for being sweet, playful and sociable, which sadly also makes them highly vulnerable to hunting and fishing. Habitat destruction, ship strikes, climate change, oil and gas development, and toxic contamination are the other significant threats to dolphin populations today. The devastating truth is that dolphins are one of the many magnificent creatures at risk of extinction. So please, join us in celebrating Dolphin Awareness Month and learn how you can make a difference.
There are currently 36 species of dolphins identified, including four species of river dolphins. Of these 36 species, approximately 14 are believed to be endangered and one is thought to be extinct. All four of the freshwater (river) dolphin species are now threatened with extinction according to the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature “Red List” of threatened species. Tragically, this is all due to human activities.
Luckily, there is hope as animal experts, conservationists, animal scientists, veterinarians, bioethicists and others at top zoological organizations across the globe are working feverishly to pull endangered and disappearing species back from the brink. It is these certified zoos and aquariums that are leading the education and conservation efforts for dolphins and other animals.
In the protected environment of marine life parks, scientists can examine aspects of dolphin biology that are difficult or impossible to study in the wild. SeaWorld, for example, is an AmericanHumane Certified™ facility committed to species research, habitat protection, animal rescue and conservation education. After visiting the park, guests leave with a heightened appreciation of the importance of conserving marine animals and preserving their habitats. SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and releases bottlenose dolphins that have been stranded along U.S. coasts, and the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund grants millions of dollars to various conservation projects around the world, including many involving dolphins.
Vancouver Aquarium, another American Humane Certified facility, is Canada’s only dedicated marine mammal rescue – rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing over 150 marine mammals each year. Helen, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, was rescued after she had been entangled and injured by fixed fishing nets. Now she’s helping researchers understand how dolphins use their sonar (echolocation) to locate objects in the water. This research might one day lead to fishing nets and deterrent devices that will allow dolphins in the wild to avoid them.
The American Humane Certified Miami Seaquarium® has also rescued, rehabilitated and released countless manatees, sea turtles, dolphins and whales.
These aquariums provide a safe space for dolphins, free of the numerous threats they face in the wild. It is these efforts that will help to ensure a future for these sleek, wonderful creatures.
This Dolphin Awareness Month, we ask you to celebrate dolphins by visiting your local certified aquarium to learn more about them and support critical, ongoing conservation efforts. Find a certified facility near you: http://humaneconservation.org/certified-parks/.