Jane Goodall joins calls for an end to whale and dolphin captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium

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Jane Goodall has issued a letter calling for an end to whale and dolphin captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The statement appears in its entirety below. Therein, the renowned primatologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute acknowledges the Vancouver Aquarium as an “industry leader” noteworthy for pledging not to keep cetaceans caught from the wild. However, it then goes on to argue that whale and dolphin captivity of any kind is an outdated practice that should come to an end.

“The current permission of Vancouver Aquarium cetacean breeding programs on-site, and at SeaWorld with belugas on loan, is no longer defensible by science,” Goodall states. “This is demonstrated by the high mortality rates evident in these breeding programs and by the ongoing use of these animals in interactive shows as entertainment.”

Goodall suggests there should be a gradual phase out of marine mammal exhibits, which is an option that Vancouver activists and civic politicians have described as a realistic means of ending cetacean captivity at the aquarium's facility in Stanley Park.

“The phasing out of such cetacean programs is the natural progression of human-kind’s evolving view of our non-human animal kin,” the letter continues. “I hope the Vancouver Park Board and the Vancouver Aquarium will be a leader in compassionate conservation on this issue, as you have done before.”

Goodall’s letter is addressed to the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

In response, the Vancouver Aquarium issued a statement to media in which vice-president Clint Wright takes issue with some of Goodall’s arguments.

“The Vancouver Aquarium has the greatest respect for Jane Goodall but her information may be incomplete,” Wright states quoted in the release. “The current science is clear that beluga whales live as long, if not longer, while in human care. Scientific and behavioural evidence shows that cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium are content and thriving.”

The emailed message goes on to emphasize the aquarium’s work in areas of research, public engagement, and conservation. It also questions how much Goodall knows about the Vancouver facility.

“We don't believe Dr. Goodall has ever visited the Vancouver Aquarium,” says Wright quoted in the release. “We welcome the opportunity to host her so she may see, first-hand, the exceptional care our cetaceans receive.”

Goodall's letter was supplied to the Straight by Vision Vancouver park board vice chair Constance Barnes.

In a telephone interview, Barnes described the letter as a “very powerful” gesture of support for those who have called for an end to whale and dolphin exhibits. She said she plans on releasing it to the public at this evening's May 26 park board meeting.

Barnes maintained that momentum against cetacean captivity is building. She described this as an opportunity for the aquarium to “be a hero” and announce it will begin the gradual phase-out that Goodall has called for.

The complete text of Goodall’s letter appears below.

May 13, 2014
Dear Park Board Chairman and Commissioners,

The capture, breeding and keeping of cetaceans world-wide has come under increasing public scrutiny due to recent high-profile stories being released from industry insiders. The scientific community is also responding to the captivity of these highly social and intelligent species as we now know more than ever, about the complex environments such species require to thrive and achieve good welfare. Those of us who have had the fortunate opportunity to study wild animals in their natural settings where family, community structure and communication form a foundation for these animals’ existence, know the implications of captivity on such species.

I understand the Vancouver Park Board and the Vancouver Aquarium became industry leaders in 1996, when an agreement was made to not allow the keeping of cetaceans caught from the wild after September 16th of that year (with the exception of endangered species or rehabilitation animals that could not be released). However, the current permission of Vancouver Aquarium cetacean breeding programs on-site, and at SeaWorld with belugas on loan, is no longer defensible by science. This is demonstrated by the high mortality rates evident in these breeding programs and by the ongoing use of these animals in interactive shows as entertainment.

The idea that certain cetaceans “do better” in captivity than others is also misleading, as belugas, dolphins and porpoises are highly social animals which can travel in large pods and migrate long distances. In captivity, these highly vocal and complex communicators are forced to live in a low-sensory environment, which is unable to fully meet the needs of their physical and emotional worlds.

As society at large and the scientific community now reflect on the keeping of highly cognitive species like primates, elephants, and cetaceans in entertainment and research, I ask the Vancouver Park Board and the Vancouver Aquarium to do the same. The phasing out of such cetacean programs is the natural progression of human-kind’s evolving view of our non-human animal kin. I hope the Vancouver Park Board and the Vancouver Aquarium will be a leader in compassionate conservation on this issue, as you have done before.

Sincerely,
Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE
Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute &
UN Messenger of Peace

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Hunter Erikson

May 26, 2014 at 6:59pm

I can't even fathom how Jane Goodall has time to even consider such a non-issue in a backwater town like Vancouver. I seriously doubt she even has an idea as to what the Vancouver Aquarium even does or how it operates. However, I am not the least bit surprised by this nature of this letter, Goodall is known for her views on animal rights and is of course a director since founding of the Nonhuman Rights Project which if one has been following the Straight's coverage of this issue would link her to Lori Marino.

Kelly Bunting

May 26, 2014 at 7:03pm

I agree that the Vancouver Aquarium should take this opportunity to be a leader in the aquarium world and phase out their cetacean exhibits. Instead of building larger concrete jails they could build some fantastic exhibits using the latest technology. Ticket sales will increase for the aquarium if they did this and Vancouverites could then be proud of their aquarium. None of the conservation efforts they speak of have anything to do with their captive whales. They can still continue their conservation work without having a whale exhibit.

Forest

May 26, 2014 at 7:41pm

Jane Goodall remains one of the most intelligent and respected scientists on the planet. On the other hand, Clint Wright is not a scientist, nor does he speak for science. (Neither does Mr Nightingale for that matter). As usual, Dr. Goodall is correct on this. The Vancouver Aquarium is in the process of squirming. Hopefully, this represents the death-throes of a very bad policy and practice on cetacean breeding and international trafficking.

Lifeforce

May 26, 2014 at 7:43pm

In 1996 the Vancouver Aquarium vehemently opposed the Cetacean Bylaw to phase out the captivity of cetaceans. Although they could not continue wild captures after the bylaw was implemented they got enough loopholes that would perpepetuate endless sources for their cruel imprisonment of whales and dolphins.
Lifeforce and others spearheaded the campaign for a bylaw to phase out captivity. The Vancouver Aquarium were not leaders. They remain part of the problems NOT the solutions!

Martin Dunphy

May 26, 2014 at 8:01pm

Hunter:

Ms. Goodall was in Vancouver several weeks ago for a public appearance. Possibly that was when she became aware of the issue.

Elizabeth Burrows

May 26, 2014 at 8:12pm

Obviously the Vancouver Aquarium is only concerned about preserving their gravy train of animal exploitation. They totally ignored Ms. Goodall's informed message, that cetaceans do not belong in captivity, and that no artificial environment can ever begin to replicate their natural lives in the wild. If the Aquarium were truly concerned with conservation this article would not even be necessary. Shame on them for not respecting one of the world's leading scientist's informed opinion and having the arrogance to think that if she only visited their "superior" tanks, she would capitulate. I imagine she would be especially impressed with their "yoga with belugas" FOR PROFIT programme. The Vancouver Aquarium is no different (and certainly not more special than) from any other marine park in the world, the almighty dollar reigns at the expense of exploited animals trained to do stupid tricks for human entertainment and profit.

anonymous

May 26, 2014 at 8:31pm

I'd be very interested to know who is writing the Vancouver Aquarium's press releases.

Vice president Clint Wright says: “The current science is clear that beluga whales live as long, if not longer, while in human care. Scientific and behavioural evidence shows that cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium are content and thriving.”

Beluga whales that have died at the Vancouver aquarium:

2011 - Tiqa, 3 years old
2010 - Nala, 1 year and 2 weeks
2005 - Tuvaq, 3 years old

Linda Russell

May 26, 2014 at 8:35pm

Good on Jane Goodall, you don't need to visit an aquarium to know that large Orcas in small chlorinated pools is wrong. No matter how well they are cared for, they must be bored stupid having no stimulation except for a couple of short shows a day.Such social intelligent creatures deserve more than this.

Daylon

May 26, 2014 at 9:36pm

I am not sure what is more incredible. This letter from the incredible DOCTOR Jane Goodall or the Aquariums response. I only hope they keep these statements coming. It's only helping our cause.

A couple things that amaze me:
The public tax payers(me and u) are paying for this expansion while our children's education is compromised by teachers striking because the govt refuses to pay them what they deserve. This is our future!! Our children is the future of this planet.
The other amazing fact that is amazing is that Teck Oil is one of the sponsors for this expansion(to the tune of approx $12.5 Million). I'm sorry but why would an aquarium that keeps mentioning all the conservation work they do, want to get in bed with Big Oil who had one of the most devastating oil spills into our Columbia River. ??

Martin Dunphy

May 26, 2014 at 9:55pm

Daylon:

To set the record straight: Teck's spill in the Columbia River, of up to 25,000 litres, was a chemical solution containing sodium hydroxide, or caustic soda, not oil. Teck is involved in starting up a tarsands partnership project in Alberta but is still primarily known as a mining giant.

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