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Dolphins Gain Unprecedented Protection in India.
India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has advised state governments to ban dolphinariums and other commercial entertainment that involves the capture and confinement of cetacean species such as orcas and bottlenose dolphins. In a statement, the government said research had clearly established cetaceans are highly intelligent and sensitive, and that dolphins “should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights.”
The move comes after weeks of protest against a dolphin park in the state of Kerala and several other marine mammal entertainment facilities which were to be built this year. Animal welfare advocates welcomed the decision.
“This opens up a whole new discourse of ethics in the animal protection movement in India,” said Puja Mitra from the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO). Mitra is a leading voice in the Indian movement to end dolphin captivity.
“The scientific evidence we provided during the campaign talked about cetacean intelligence and introduced the concept of non-human persons,” she said in an interview with DW..
“There’s nothing like having a few animals on display, particularly ones that are so sensitive and intelligent as these dolphins,” said Belinda Wright from the Wildlife Protection Society of India in an interview with DW. “It’s a good money making proposition.”
But audiences are usually oblivious to the documented suffering of these marine performers.
“The majority of dolphins and whales in captivity have been sourced through wild captures in Japan, in Taiji, in the Caribbean, in the Solomon Islands and parts of Russia. These captures are very violent,” Mitra explained.
“They drive groups of dolphins into shallow bay areas where young females whose bodies are unmarked and are thought to be suitable for display are removed. The rest are often slaughtered.”
Mitra argued that the experience of captivity is tantamount to torture. She explained that orcas and other dolphins navigate by using sonar signals, but in tanks, the reverberations bounce off the walls, causing them “immense distress”. She described dolphins banging their heads on the walls and orcas wearing away their teeth as they pull at bars and bite walls.
The Exceptional Cognitive Abilities of Dolphins
Dolphins are perhaps the most intelligent aquatic mammal on Earth. With their self-awareness and abilities to communicate, reason, express emotions, adapt, and perform altruistic acts, they have spread across every ocean and many freshwater rivers in the same way humans have populated every continent. The cognitive abilities of dolphins are exceptional. Below is a close examination of this mammal's brain size, structure and remarkable cognitive abilities.
Uniting Primates and Cetaceans Through Personhood
In this presentation I will discuss the neuroanatomical basis of complex intelligence in dolphins, how the neuroanatomy provides evidence for psychological continuity between humans and dolphins, and the profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions.
However, Marino suggests we go even further than simply protecting dolphins from harm. Even such amusements as marine park shows or “swim with dolphins” programs are psychologically damaging to these highly intelligent species and should be reconsidered.
These arguments were highlighted in The Sunday Times of London yesterday where they interviewed Marino about her research:
What Marino and her colleagues found was that the cerebral cortex and neocortex of bottlenose dolphins were so large that “the anatomical ratios that assess cognitive capacity place it second only to the human brain”. They also found that the brain cortex of dolphins such as the bottlenose had the same convoluted folds that are strongly linked with human intelligence.
Such folds increase the volume of the cortex and the ability of brain cells to interconnect with each other. “Despite evolving along a different neuroanatomical trajectory to humans, cetacean brains have several features that are correlated with complex intelligence,” Marino said.