Kira, like many other labs, absolutely loves to swim – she’s a natural in the water. It’s not just her love of water that’s truly remarkable, however, it’s the fact that Kira has made friends with wild dolphins. Dolphins are naturally playful creatures, and they seem to love Kira as much as she loves them. In the video below, you can see underwater footage of Kira’s adorable little paws paddling above the dolphins, and you get a perfect view of the dolphins’ playful reaction to their new friend!
Kira lives at the Somente Aqua Dolphin Center in Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique with her owner Noleen Withers, owner of the dolphin center. Noleen has a background in responsible eco-tourism, and she uses the dolphin center as a means to create an educational platform for conservation. According to the Somente Aqua Dolphin Center website, Noleen goes on a majority of the dolphin excursions. Her bio reads, “guests will more often than not be mesmerized by the affinity Noleen shares with Dolphins of Ponta along with her preservation to protect them,” it’s clear that she’s not there to exploit the dolphins, but to make sure that they have the safest and least destructive experiences with humans possible.
Noleen and her team have spent years observing wild dolphin behavior, and they operate under the ideology that protection of the dolphins and their habitat is a first priority. The Somente Aqua Dolphin Center has a strict no-touching policy in regards to any and all marine life encounters that occur while on excursions. A trained dolphin facilitator leads every excursion and determines the dolphin pod behavior before allowing anyone to enter the water near the dolphins. If the pod is exhibiting avoidance behavior, then a strict no-entry policy is maintained. Simply put, if the dolphins are not receptive to human interaction, no humans will be getting in the water. This helps the dolphins to remain comfortable in their habitat and allows them a feeling of control over their environment; when protective measures like this are not taken, terrible things can happen to dolphins.
Because dolphins are such highly intelligent and social creatures with such a wide swimming range, they fare extremely poorly in captivity. Whale and Dolphin Conservation, WDC, is the leading charity organization working for the conservation and preservation of whales and dolphins, and they absolutely never condone participating in captive dolphin swims. They state that capture methods are often times cruel, and many dolphins don’t actually survive the process of being captured and transported, but chances of living a full life in enclosure are highly unlikely as well. In captivity, these social creatures are deprived of the ability to communicate, hunt, mate and play in the same manner that the wild allows them; essentially they are imprisoned and stripped of the right to perform all of their natural activities. For such intelligent creatures, this sense of confinement can lead to behavioral abnormalities and sickness that can eventually lead to death. Further, captive dolphins have no say in whether or not they interact with humans in their tank, they have literally nowhere to escape. With all of this in mind, it’s impossible to justify captive dolphin swims. The next time you’re on vacation or presented with the opportunity to swim with captive dolphins, remember the impact that this will have on the dolphins’ lives.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that swimming with wild dolphins is always a better solution, as it can often be just as damaging to the dolphins involved. Irresponsible tour guides can scare dolphins away from their usual homes by dropping too many tourists into the water above the dolphins and disturbing their peace. WDC warns, “disruption to feeding, resting, nursing and other behaviour may have a long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of individual dolphins and populations.” Another problem occurs when irresponsible tour guides use food to lure dolphins closer to swimmers, as this can lead to the dolphins becoming reliant on humans for food. This is why responsible ecotourism like that practiced by Noleen is so incredibly important in the conservation of dolphins and their habitats.
Noleen and her team do everything they can to set an example for the respect and proper conservation of dolphins, but clearly this isn’t the case for all who recognize the growing desire of humans to swim with dolphins. As long as there is demand for dolphin encounters, there will be those who are exploiting these beautiful animals for the sake of turning a profit. If you’re looking to swim with dolphins, do your research and make sure you find a company like Noleen’s that holds the protection of the dolphins as their top priority. If Kira is any representation of her owner, I think it’s safe to assume that Noleen has nothing but the highest reverence for the dolphins she encounters.
What do you think of Kira? What do you think of Noleen take on repsonsible ecotourism? Did you know that captive dolphin encounters were so dangerous to the dolphins? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!