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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

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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