Nature vs Captivity

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  • Belugas, Bottlenose dolphins and Orcas in the wild, often swim in groups of dozens of individuals, including familiy members.
  • In aquaria, they swim in small groups of unrelated individuals, frequently of different species. Sometimes, they become aggressive towards each other and may be administered hormones or other medications to prevent fights or injuries.
  • In natural habitat, they establish close ties with one another, they have complex spcial structures and they rely on strong social bonds.
  • In captivity, animals are transferred from one aquarium to another, causing stress to the animals due to being placed with strangers. This can cause psychological and social problems. If levels of social stress are extreme, it can even lead to death. Pregnant females may even abort fetuses due to the stress caused by the situation.
  • In natural habitat, they cooperate to fish and share food, this creates strong social connections between individuals.
  • In aquaria, they eat frozen fish, which means their diet must be supplemented with vitamins due to a loss of nutrients in frozen fish. Also dehydration is a common problem, so the fish are injected with water or the cetaceans are given gelatin - as a last resort, cetaceans are forcibly given water through a tube. 
  • In the ocean, they recognize their environment and they communicate through complex vocalizations. Some species have their own language or dialect within related groups.
  • In the enclosed pools, they rarely use echolocation because there is nothing new to discover between concrete walls. In tanks with right angles, their echolocation clicks may be reflected in ways that cause confusion or stress. Many orcas and bottlenose dolphins are stressed by machinery noises or loud music played during and after shows.
  • In their natural environment, these animals swim 65-160 km per day, at top speeds of 25 km/h for belugas, 40 km/h for dolphins, and 55 km/h for orcas. They can also dive up to 90 meters deep.
  • In small and shallow tanks, they can only swim around circles and may fall into depression.
  • In nature, belugas can live up to 60-70 years, bottlenose dolphins up to 50-60 years, and orcas up to 70 or 90 years- females live longer than males.
  • In captivity, many cetaceans die young and life expectancy in general might be reduced by half. In aquaria, dolphins rarely live more than 20 years. Orcas rarely reach middle age. Belugas live half as long as they would in nature.
  • In their natural habitat, they are active animals. In fact, even when they sleep, half of their brain is alert and they never stop swimming.
  • In captivity, they are deprived of natural stimuli, causing them boredom and stress. It is common to see captive cetaceans floating lethargically at the surface (a behavior called "logging").
  • In nature, cetaceans show evidence of culture - learned differences in behavior, vocalizations, and prey preferences.
  • In captivity, they are unable to exhibit many natural behaviors (most obviously hunting behavior) and are fored to swim and behave abnormally.
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