Captive Whales and Dolphins: Life Beyond Concrete Tanks

Captive Wales and Dolphins

​Lori Marino, Ph.D.

President of the Whale Sanctuary Project

Since the release of the popular documentary Blackfish, of which Dr. Marino was featured, the public has become more aware of the welfare issues that plague captive whales and dolphins.

As more research surfaces showing the stress captive animals face when living in zoos and aquariums, many animal activists believe captive whales and dolphins should be moved to a seaside sanctuary where these animals can retire from captivity. This Common Hour Presentation focuses on the scientific evidence for why whales and dolphins should not be kept in captivity and how they would instead benefit from the creation of a seaside sanctuary.

Dr. Marino has spent the past 18 years at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, as a professor of biopsychology, studying the behavior of captive dolphins. She founded the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, which aims to bridge the gap between such scientific research and animal advocacy. Marino is internationally known for her work on the evolution of the brain and intelligence in dolphins and whales and comparisons to primates. In 2001 she co-authored a ground-breaking study offering the first conclusive evidence for mirror self-recognition in bottlenose dolphins, after which she decided against further research with captive animals.

She has published over 100 empirical and review papers on dolphin and primate brain evolution and behavior, and human-nonhuman animal relationships, including the psychological and philosophical bases of animal exploitation and, more specifically, critiques of dolphin assisted therapy and other captivity issues. Marino’s latest work as President of The Whale Sanctuary Project aims to establish a permanent seaside sanctuary for captive cetaceans where they can live out the rest of their lives in an enclosure which closely matches their natural environment.

This event was proposed by sophomore Corey Kreidler and is sponsored by the Center for the Sustainable Environment, Psychology Department, Public Policy Program, Brooks College House, and the Biological Foundations of Behavior Program.

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