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Miami Seaquarium tried putting dolphins on a diet to perform better for visitors

The diets of nine of 12 dolphins at the Dolphin Harbor attraction were cut by 60 percent, according to the USDA report. This resulted in very thin animals and increased incidents of unwanted behaviors.

ROBYN WHITE: Miami Seaquarium has faced criticism after putting nine of its captive dolphins on diets, which—according to a USDA report—caused them to become aggressive, to swim over ledges and sinking during line-ups.

A leaked U.S. government report based on a July inspection of the park found that the diets of nine dolphins at the Dolphin Harbor attraction were cut earlier this year “for the purpose of ensuring the animals performed for the guest interactions.”

This led to some of the dolphins losing a lot of weight and to an increase in aggressive behavior, according to the 10-page report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which was shared online by animal rights activists PETA…

Miami Seaquarium has rejected allegations by government inspectors that it cut back on food given to dolphins at the park to make them perform better for visitors, leading to the animals becoming aggressive, but their report has outraged animal rights activists, who are calling for the dolphins to be set free.

Animal rights groups sharply criticized the Seaquarium over the report, with PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] calling for the dolphins to be released and the Seaquarium closed down…

The diets of nine of 12 dolphins at the Dolphin Harbor attraction were cut by 60 percent without consulting the facility’s veterinarian, according to the USDA report. This resulted in “very thin” animals. For example, one dolphin named Star—a 23-year-old female—was being fed 12 pounds of fish daily in January 2022. Her diet was then cut abruptly in March to four pounds daily, the report said…

The cut in the diet of some of the dolphins “led to increased incidents of unwanted behaviors such as splitting or breaking from sessions, swimming over ledges where guests may stand, sinking during line-ups and aggressing against trainers,” the USDA report added…

“Even after officials promised greater oversight, this damning new federal inspection report reveals that Miami Seaquarium staff starved dolphins in order to force them to perform and made the emaciated animals perform more often than usual, causing them to attack trainers,” General Counsel for Animal Law at PETA Foundation, Jared Goodman, told Newsweek.

“PETA is calling on everyone to steer clear of the park, for the Seaquarium to release the dolphins along with the lonely orca Lolita, and for Miami-Dade County to shut this hellhole down,” he said.

A USDA report conducted in June 2021 previously raised concerns about the living conditions for animals at the park, in particular, for Lolita. This report said that the Seaquarium’s management had been ignoring the recommendations of its in-house veterinarian.

Miami Seaquarium said in June that two prominent marine mammal experts had spent two days with the orca and her care team, providing an independent evaluation of her recent medical history and the way she was being looked after.

Naomi A. Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, said in a blog post that for two years running, Miami Seaquarium’s management team has “egregiously violated” standards of the Animal Welfare Act.

Dolphins are highly intelligent, complex animals. Animal welfare groups argue that keeping them in captivity is cruel, as they cannot do half of the things they would be able to do in the wild.

“We can’t know what it feels like to be a whale or dolphin, but when you see the behavior of individuals who have spent years in captivity, you can imagine the boredom and even despair that they may be feeling,” Danny Groves, communications manager at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, told Newsweek.

“In confinement, they may swim endlessly in circles, lie on the floor of the tank for many hours, chew on the sides of the pool and repeat the same patterns of behavior over and over. The stress and frustration of a life like this can cause captive whales and dolphins to attack each other and sometimes trainers and members of the public. This is why the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity must be phased out for good’…

Miami Seaquarium said in a statement emailed to Newsweek that the cuts in diet were due to the dolphins being overweight. It said there had been a “miscommunication” between staff and the veterinarian but this had been corrected. SOURCE…


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