Dolphinaris strategy: ride dolphins to the bank

The headline of the Sept. 7 article read “Anchored by research Dolphinaris Arizona set to open in October,” but a more appropriate title would have been “Dolphinaris Arizona anchored by deception.”

In fairness to the author, the Dolphinaris project has been shrouded in secrecy from the start, and the minimal information around it has been fishy. The fact that the article reads like a sales promotion with information fed by marketing pros set to flimflam the public at the expense of incarcerated dolphins fits the blueprint to date. And selling tickets is what this is all about.

Lane Scott

Lane Scott

If one adult and one child want to enjoy the Dolphin Swim Experience on Nov. 12 at noon? Expect to drop nearly $300.  How about mom and dad and their two kiddos?  Start saving now to cover the cool $566.18.

The article and the website do say that a “portion” of ticket sales will be donated to marine mammal conservation. They just don’t seem to want to disclose how much and where it’s supposedly going. The corporate dive for dollars apparently doesn’t stop there; expect to be pressured into paying big bucks for photos of the experience.

On a popular travel site Dolphinaris guests have said, “They try to get you to buy a photo package at the end, which is a bit pricey at $65”; “The pics and videos are expensive, you do the typical back and forth and settle on a price”; “I know it is costly to run such a facility but the entrance fee is high enough to cover this, charging $80 U.S. for 3 pictures, or $125 for 8, and more if you want the full package is way out of line.”

Ventura Entertainment-owned Dolphinaris is counting on public love for a cuddly species and gullibility to turn this into a Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation “offshore bank.” Grey Stafford, Ventura Entertainment Arizona GM, has a background of citing revenue objectives with such stops as Wildlife World Zoo and later Dolphin Quest Oahu, where he “succeeded in growing revenues despite lingering effects on domestic and international leisure travel following 9/11” according to an online resume.

When Ringling Brothers to the joy of so many decided to retire its beaten elephants that in many respects were forced to live as will these Arizona dolphins, Stafford callously said in a New York Times op-ed, “A picture in a book or an online nature video doesn’t begin to have the same lasting impact on a person as experiencing a real, living creature – even if it’s at the circus.”

Animal welfare? I think not!

A Sept. 6 LA Times op-ed from renowned philosopher and Princeton University Professor Peter Singer titled “Japan’s notorious dolphin hunt is where the world’s aquariums shop” reminded us that the six-month dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan—brought to light in the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Cove”—had begun. Singer said that “The International Marine Animal Trainers’ Assn. (IMATA) strongly opposes the dolphin slaughter that occurs in Taiji, but it accepts the capture of dolphins that happens during the same hunts.

IMATA has a policy that expressly allows its members to participate in the brutal collection process in Taiji, during which dolphins are dragged through the water by their tail flukes and violently torn from their families.” Singer added, “Dolphin trainers in wetsuits and hats brandishing the IMATA logo stand side by side with the Japanese hunters, choosing which dolphins will live in their aquariums and which will die. Many SeaWorld trainers are IMATA members, including the organization’s first vice president.” It should be known that Grey Stafford, the voice of Dolphinaris, is president of IMATA.

Current Dolphinaris and former SeaWorld veterinarian Molly Martony spoke of “Giving (dolphins) time to be animals and do what they want to do.”

Great concept, but I argue that performing tricks for food and being tugged on by humans while swimming in a concrete enclosure is not what dolphins want to do any more than we as humans want to reside in a closet for our lifetimes, being tossed food for meeting commands. Citing the USDA sounds good, but it’s this same overburdened USDA that fails to adequately enforce insufficient Animal Welfare Act standards as it is.

Being born in captivity does not fortify the profit-driven argument to imprison any animal. If this was rational thought, we would accept from birth the idea of living confined to the same quarters for the rest of our lives. If you can’t imagine such a life for yourself, what makes it justifiable to subject any living creature to such a fate?

Boycott Dolphinaris, plan a trip to see these amazing creatures in the wild and commit to protecting flora and fauna for future generations.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Scott is a Surprise resident.

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