National Aquarium to release 8 dolphins into seaside sanctuary

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National Aquarium to release 8 dolphins into seaside sanctuary

The National Aquarium in Baltimore has confirmed that eight dolphins that have been spending their lives swimming in tanks will be released into a seaside sanctuary.

Announcing the decision, the National Aquarium said the dolphins would be released into the ocean enclosure/seaside sanctuary by the end of 2020.

Making the announcement, National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli said, “There’s no model anywhere, which we’re aware of, for this. We’re pioneering here, and we know it’s neither the easiest nor the cheapest option.”

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Racanelli added that they learnt a lot about how to take care of dolphins and how to help them thrive. He further added that they could now move further to ensure dolphins’ health and welfare.

Among dolphins that will be released is a female dolphin that was captured in 1972. Six took birth at the aquarium and one was born at Orlando-based SeaWorld. The dolphins range in age from 7 to 44 years.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States welcomed the National Aquarium’s decision, saying the aquarium has done something terribly important.

According to a story published on the topic by Washington Post, "The way a society treats the animals with whom it shares this planet speaks volumes about us," John Racanelli, chief executive of the aquarium, said in explaining what will be the nation's first dolphin reservation. Under the plan announced Tuesday, after five years of debate and study, the aquarium's eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins will be retired and relocated to an oceanside sanctuary where they will continue under human care. All but one of the dolphins, ranging in age from 7 to 44, have lived their entire lives in tanks. Still under design, the outdoor, seawater facility will be significantly larger than the dolphins' current pool space and have natural stimuli such as fish and marine plants. Locations for the refuge are still being scouted, and the goal is completion by the end of 2020.

The move, which Mr. Racanelli characterized as not "the cheapest or easiest option," comes as the aquarium puts renewed emphasis on its role in aquatic conservation. The popular Inner Harbor tourist attraction expects to see no falloff in visitors once the dolphin exhibit is closed, which reflects changing public attitudes. Lobbying by animal welfare activists and documentaries such as "Blackfish" have led to a public better informed about the needs of these magnificent animals and demand for better treatment. "The American public," Mr. Racanelli wrote in an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, "is increasingly uneasy with the notion of keeping dolphins and whales in captivity." SeaWorld, please take note.

The dolphins are going to be leaving Baltimore. And the land mammals are pretty torn up about it. "I think they should be free," 10-year-old Ella Ransome said as she watched a dolphin named Foster glide past in his National Aquarium tank in Baltimore, Maryland, flashing her his dolphin grin. "But I'm sad that they're leaving. I'll miss them," according to a recent News Leader report.

Baltimore's beloved Dolphin Discovery stars are not going anywhere right away. It will take about four years for the aquarium to build an ocean sanctuary in Florida or the Caribbean and move the dolphins. There, at long last, they'll taste real seawater and swim in a huge but still safely enclosed seaside space.

All but one of the aquarium's eight dolphins, who range in age from 7 to 44, have lived their entire lives in tanks. And the more we learn about these amazing animals, the more the cruelty of forcing them to jump and toss balls for squealing crowds becomes clear. But it also exposes a generational, cultural and even political divide.

A report published in HNGN News informed, "For a while, Baltimore's National Aquarium has been discussing plans on what to do with the dolphins under the facility's care following their decision to halt dolphin performances some years ago. Officials at the aquarium settled in finding a sanctuary that would finally house the highly-intelligent sea mammals. As the report indicates, a team has been formed with the task of searching for potential sanctuary sites such as in the Caribbean and Florida."

The facility officials envision a customized home for the dolphins featuring a vegetated shoreline with mangroves and sea grapes. So far, details have not yet been announced as to how the sanctuary will offer visitors a dynamic and interactive experience with the sea creatures in their new habitat. "Emerging science and consultation with experts have convinced us that dolphins do indeed thrive when they can form social groups, have opportunities to express natural behaviors and live in a habitat as similar as possible to that for which nature so superbly designed them."

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