Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | September 23, 2011

Dolphins Get Stressed Out Too

If any of you have watched the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, you know that not only fishermen are killing these majestic creatures. In fact, many of these dolphins are killing themselves. When a dolphin is in captivity it causes a lot of stress for these animals. And according to an article on CNN, Captured Dolphins Aren’t Smiling, by Fisher Stevens,

“they [dolphins] hate to be enclosed in their holding tanks and are often not fed until it is time to perform their daily routines…they would get depressed, stressed out, even suicidal. In some parks, the trainers have to give the animals Maalox and Tagamet to treat the ulcers that develop from their stress.”

Dolphins in Captivity

Lead activist in stopping these unlawful murders, Ric O’Barry, has had personal experience with dolphin suicide. Ric O’Barry was the head trainer for the Flipper television series. He captured all five of the dolphins that portrayed “Flipper” as well as training them. What made him go from capturing dolphins to freeing them illegally? I’ll tell you, it was the suicide of one the dolphins that played Flipper. As stated in an interview with, O’Barry stated,

“Cathy [the dolphin] died in my arms of suicide. It was just before Earth Day, 1970. The next day, I found myself in a Bimini jail, trying to free a dolphin for the first time. I completely lost it.”

Suicide is a heavy word, the reason O’Barry knew that Cathy committed suicide was because Dolphins, unlike humans, are not automatic air breathers. They are conscience of every singe breathe they take. O’Barry went on to say, “She looked at me right in the eye, held it – and didn’t take another one. She just sank to the bottom of the water.” This had a profound effect on O’Barry. Since the suicide of his beloved dolphin he has been trying to free as many dolphins as possible as well as getting the word out about these mass suicides.

Ric O'Barry with his beloved Dolphin Cathy before her unfortunate death

So what exactly causes dolphins to get so stressed out that they get ulcers and take there own lives?

  • the noises emitted from the tanks cleaning systems
  • people who crowd around the dolphin pools
  • not being fed enough, only when about to perform
  • people who pay to swim with the dolphins

These are just a very few reasons that dolphins get stressed out. As stated by the LA Times,

“In a study to be published by the National Agricultural Library’s animal welfare center, Dr. Michael Stoskopf of John Hopkins University has found… the more people present – and the closer they stood to the dolphin pool – the more often the dolphins engaged in repetitive behaviors, such as standing on their tails, indicative of stress.”

In addition, research done by has found out that although we like to swim with the dolphins, the dolphins do not love it when we chase them down and swim with them. This also causes them stress. “The dolphins are using more energy than they are taking in because they aren’t resting or feeding as much but are swimming more as they try to avoid the tourist boats.”

What can you do to help save these animals lives? Here is a list taken from

Just Say No, Just Don’t Go

  • Dolphin Parks
  • Swim with Dolphin Programs
  • Hotels and Lodges that feature captive dolphins on the property
  • Dolphin “Trainer For A Day” programs
  • Dolphin “Research” facilities that charge large amounts to interact with dolphins
  • Cruise lines that feature stops at Swim With Dolphin Parks.

“If audiences stop buying tickets, these special creatures can stay wild and free.”

Here is a clip from The Cove to further explain why we need to free captured dolphins and stop the slaughters around the world:




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