Subject: other species in captivity

Tokitae (
Sun, 11 Jan 1998 11:56:34 -0500 (EST)

Dear Dr. Garrett:

I've seen Orcas, Belugas, a Gray Whale [rehabilitation], Commerson's
Pacific White-Sided dolphins, and Bottlenose dolphins in captivity, but
what other species are there in aquariums?  How come no Dusky Dolphins or
Frasier's Dolphins or Saddlebacks or Narwhals or Spotted dolphins are in
captivity?  Are they too rare?  I'm thinking that hardiness is a reason,
especially with Narwhals.  But what about the others?  Oh yea~Would Minkes
be too hard to keep in captivity?  Size isn't a big issue; Orcas are
larger, but would the food be a problem?  I'm wondering about this because
almost every aquarium has Bottlenoses and Orcas, rarely anything else, save
for Sea World of Florida, California, and Shedd Aquarium.

Thank You!

This is an interesting question. I don't have an inventory of all the
species in captivity, although NMFS does maintain one for the US. I'm sure
you are substantially correct in your listing, however. No doubt any small
cetacean could be captured, but in many cases, such as with Dall's
porpoises, they are simply too frenetic to survive more than a few hours in
captivity. Minkes constantly streak from place to place, and I can't even
imagine restricting a minke to a tank. None are considered endangered, so
that wouldn't be a factor. Food would not be a problem either. Buckets of
sand lance could be fed to them, but they simply can't slow down. I would
guess that is pretty much the case with most of the other species. Keeping
them alive is just too problematic for the parks.

Of course that inability to remain in such an unnatural immobilized state is
true of all cetacean species. It's just a matter of degree between species.
Orca life spans are significantly shortened in captivity, according to
scientific literature.

Howard Garrett
PAWS Lolita Campaign Coordinator