Dolphinaris Arizona: good for the community. Good for marine life.

Dolphinaris, one of the world’s leading providers of dolphin experiences is opening a world-class facility on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community late this summer. The facility is an opportunity for visitors to engage with dolphins, learn about them, and be part of ocean conservation efforts.

By Dr. Grey Stafford

By Dr. Grey Stafford

It is truly a multi-national and multicultural endeavor bringing millions in investment, jobs and a family friendly attraction to the Valley.

Guests of all ages will have an opportunity to interact with bottlenose dolphins from dry land or swim with them in water. Such experiences are encouraged by the Marine Mammal Protection Act enacted by Congress over 40 years ago, which recognizes that public display of marine mammals is invaluable to the preservation of all marine life.

It allows us to learn about animals, the ocean, and how our decisions affect them both. Many Arizonans don’t have the opportunity to see marine mammals in the ocean, nor are they aware, for example, the world’s most critically endangered cetacean, the vaquita, also called the “desert porpoise,” is found only in the northern Gulf of California just miles across our border.

Fun and personal experiences like those offered at Dolphinaris foster empathy and action in protecting such natural habitats.

For 17 years, it’s been my great honor to share with you thousands of animal ambassadors and my concerns about the welfare of wild animals and habitats. Rest assured that dolphins thrive in human care. A 2014 AP analysis of US zoos found dolphins have an average life expectancy similar to animals studied off Sarasota Bay, about 24-25 years. In some US facilities, bottlenose dolphins live up to 2 decades longer on average than their wild counterparts. I have personally worked with dolphins in their 50s and 60s.

At Dolphinaris, the dolphins receive the highest level of care possible from animal be-haviorists and veterinarians dedicated to their well-being. All of the dolphins coming to Arizona were born and raised in human care — not surprising since most on public display in the US, some 65 percent (and climbing), were born in the care of human beings.

Furthermore, the USDA acknowledges the safety record of dolphin interaction programs: “We note that interactive programs have been operating for over 20 years with-out any indications of health problems or incidents…”

At Dolphinaris, our interactions with the animals are based on positive reinforcement. These rewards include appropriate toys, play, water jets, tactile, guest interactions, and more.

Dolphinaris operates a foundation, which works in partnership with universities, providing an opportunity for students to study dolphin physiology, behavior, medicine and conservation issues. It supports studies that monitor ocean ecosystems and how changes in the environment affect dolphins and other wildlife. A portion of sales at Dolphinaris will also aid stranding efforts.

All of us at Dolphinaris Arizona are excited to introduce some new animal friends to the visitors and residents of the greater Phoenix community in the coming months.

Editor’s note: Dr. Stafford is the general manager at Dolphinaris Arizona

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