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We value in zoos and aquariums – but voice support for banning whales and dolphins in captivity

Eight-in-ten say such facilities play an important role in wildlife conservation

The future of zoos and aquariums in North America has come into question in recent years, and two proposed laws to reduce or outright ban cetaceans in captivity, both in the House of Commons and Senate, appear to reflect the state of public opinion.

Some have called it the “Blackfish” effect – citing the impact of a popular documentary about the problematic nature of housing intelligent aquatic animals at SeaWorld. SeaWorld Entertainment’s stock plummeted after the film aired on CNN, and has never recovered to pre-Blackfish levels.

A new study from the Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians more than twice as likely to say these mammals should be banned from captivity in Canadian aquariums, than to say that this practice should be allowed.

This finding follows movements in this country against the captivity of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – which have been led against Marineland, the popular aquarium and zoo in Niagara Falls, Ontario. In that provice, residents are more than three-times as likely to say that such practices should be banned (54%) rather than allowed (15%).

This isn’t to say that Canadians do not see value in the work that zoos and aquariums perform. Almost all show appreciation for the role that facilities play in rehabilitation and wildlife conservation and six-in-ten (62%) say that having a zoo or aquarium close by makes a community a better place to live.

More Key Findings:

  • In British Columbia, where in 2014 the Vancouver aquarium announced it would no longer house whales and dolphins, residents are much more evenly divided. Two-in-five (40%) say captivity should be banned, while one-in-three say it should be allowed
  • More than half of Canadians (56%) disagree that a person can learn the same thing from the television that they would experience at a zoo, and this number rises with increased exposure to these facilities
  • Half of Canadians (50%) say it is wrong to keep an animal in captivity if it is not endangered or injured, but a significant minority (40%) disagree

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