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.
The Society of Marine Mammalogy recognizes 41 distinct dolphin species, nine of which are considered endangered by either the IUCN, the Endangered Species Act, or both, and one that may already be extinct. There are five species of freshwater dolphins listed on the IUCN Red List, all of which are classified as endangered or critically endangered. Tragically, this is all due to human activities.
The Chinese river dolphin, or baiji, holds the unenviable record of being the first dolphin species driven to extinction by human beings. The mighty Yangtze River in China was the baiji’s home for 20 million years, but it took less than 50 years for humans to wipe them out.
Luckily, there is still hope for other dolphin species. Animal experts, conservationists, animal scientists, veterinarians and bioethicists at top zoological organizations across the globe are working feverishly to pull endangered and disappearing species back from the brink. It is American Humane 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 American Humane 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.
In August, SeaWorld worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, another American Humane Certified™ facility, to rescue a juvenile dolphin who was stranded in a drainage retention pond in Louisiana. Officials believe the dolphin was separated from its pod during Hurricane Ida, and entered the area with the rising waters. The rescue was a success and after being examined by the IMMS veterinarian, the dolphin was released back into the wild.
For the dolphins that are deemed unfit to return to the wild, certified aquariums provide a safe space, free of the numerous threats that dolphins face in the ocean. 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/.