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Country Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe SeaWorld announced today that it will end orca breeding at all of its marine parks and phase out its killer whale shows. The move comes after years of pressure by animal rights and animal welfare advocates, including some scientists who have argued that these animals shouldn’t be kept in captivity.“I’m thrilled and very, very proud of the stance that SeaWorld is taking,” says biopsychologist Lori Marino, the executive director of The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy in Kanab, Utah, which aims to inject more science into the animal advocacy movement. “They are clearly evolving as an organization.” But Kelly Jaakkola, the director of research at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida, calls the move a “surprise” and says it could hinder researchers’ ability to learn more about orcas. “I don’t think it was a science-based decision.”Animal advocates, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have long pressured SeaWorld to free its whales and dolphins, a group collectively known as cetaceans. PETA even filed a lawsuit in 2011 arguing that orcas were “slaves” under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Then came the popular 2013 documentary Blackfish, which cast a pall on captivity by focusing on a SeaWorld orca named Tilikum that had killed several people. (Tilikum is now seriously ill.)center_img But a handful of scientists have also been pressuring marine parks to release their cetaceans. In 2010, Marino banded together with other scientists, activists, and philosophers to draft a “Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans” declaring that no whales and dolphins “should be held in captivity … or removed from their natural environment.” Marino, whose own work indicated that dolphins were capable of self-awareness and other types of advanced cognition, felt that keeping these social, intelligent animals in marine parks did not justify what could be learned from them. Critics shot back that removing all cetaceans from captivity could curtail important research that could not be replicated in the wild. (There are about 600 cetaceans kept in 34 facilities in North America today.)It’s unclear just how much research was being done on SeaWorld’s orcas. Marino says it was minimal. But Heidi Harley, a comparative psychologist at the New College of Florida in Sarasota who has studied cetaceans at a variety of marine parks and was advising SeaWorld on improving its orca enclosure in San Diego, California, says important work on breeding and physiology was being done. “A lot of what we know about killer whale health has come out of SeaWorld research.” This work, she says, is important to conserving these animals in the wild. “As the climate changes and the ocean changes it would be nice to know how flexible these animals are and what impact a changing environment will have on them. There are so many questions.”SeaWorld says it will keep its remaining orcas until they die—which for some could be decades from now—but that it will turn its attention to “natural orca encounters” and programs that emphasize “orca enrichment, exercise and overall health”, rather than theatrical shows. It made no announcement about its dolphins, which Marino and other advocates have also urged them to stop breeding. (In 2014, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, announced that it was considering moving all eight of its dolphins to a marine sanctuary.)That’s makes sense to Richard Connor, an animal behaviorist at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, who studies wild dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, and who supervised a student who studied killer whales at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. “I think the move is a good decision for killer whales, who can travel up to 160 km in a day,” he says. “But dolphins are more amenable to captivity, and we’ve just scratched the surface of what we can learn from them.” In the wild, he says, it’s much harder to do controlled experiments and to account for the large amount of variables. “Taking them out of captivity would hamstring this field enormously.”Shawn Noren, a physiologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), who has studied cetacean development and physiology at marine parks for nearly 20 years, says that the challenge for her and others going forward is to convince the public that the knowledge that can be gained from these animals justifies keeping some of them in captivity. She spends some of her time teaching marine biology to high school students at UCSC’s Long Marine Lab, and she says that before Blackfish came out, “the kids were giddy to meet our dolphins. Now, they want to know why we have these animals in tanks.” She says when she tells them about the research she and others do, the students change their minds. “We need to explain to them why this is important.”Harley says she sees SeaWorld’s move as part of a larger trend of reevaluating the ethics of keeping cognitively complex animals in captivity, whether it be cetaceans or chimpanzees. “I think about this stuff all the time.” Still, she says, “as the world changes, having more information is better than having less information. Before we interacted with orcas in captivity, we thought they were savage beasts. Now, people hold their infants up to kiss them.” Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*)last_img

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