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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...

Robotic dolphins – an alternative for the captive dolphin industry?

A deceptively realistic robotic dolphin, made headlines recently, causing people to ask whether robots like this could provide an alternative to the cruelty of keeping dolphins in tanks for human entertainment? It’s an interesting question so let’s explore...

The realistic looking robot dolphin © Edge Innovations
The realistic looking robot dolphin © Edge Innovations

Your donation will help us end dolphin captivity by developing solutions like sanctuaries

While criticism of holding whales and dolphins in captivity is growing, alternatives are being invented. Virtual reality and animatronic technologies have improved massively and this robotic dolphin has been created by an engineering company in the US. It is two and a half metres long, weighs 250 kg and its skin is made from medical-grade silicone. It resembles a bottlenose dolphin so closely that we would be hard-pressed to tell the difference from a distance – it’s quite incredible! And the price?  A staggering $26 million.

WDC supports alternative solutions to the display of whales and dolphins. A life in a tank, let alone the capture and transport, is extremely stressful for these intelligent and social mammals.

But is it as simple as just replacing live captive dolphins with robotic ones? Presenting these ‘techno-dolphins‘ in their natural environment and using them to demonstrate dolphins' natural behaviours could be an extremely powerful educational tool, whereas encouraging people to interact with a robotic dolphin in a featureless pool environment somehow just perpetuates the myth that dolphins belong in tanks and risks encouraging people to want to swim with real dolphins.

Robotic dolphin with swimmer © Edge Innovations
Robotic dolphin with swimmer © Edge Innovations

The suffering of dolphins in captivity needs to end and we welcome all innovations that will help us get there. One solution is the creation of ocean sanctuaries like the beluga sanctuary that we’ve created in Iceland in partnership with the SEA LIFE Trust. This world first project allows captive belugas to live in a natural ocean environment where they no longer have to perform in shows and have much more choice as to how they live their daily lives.

The residents of the world's first whale sanctuary
The residents of the world's first whale sanctuary

More sanctuaries are needed for other species in other locations but this won‘t happen overnight and in the meantime, we need to change the image of dolphins that still prevails in some parts of our society.  Whether real dolphins or robots, instead of watching them jump in tanks and interact with humans we should be learning about their natural behaviours, social structures and their need for protection in the wild. These incredible robotic dolphins and other advances in technology have the potential to help enormously with this and we are excited to see where this goes. But let’s not put them in tanks.

You can help end captivity with a donation

Your gift, whether large or small, will help us support alternatives to cruel dolphin captivity.

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