A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

How Sanctuaries Make Right What’s Wrong

(This is the complete video of the final session of the “I Am NOT an Animal!” symposium, including the talk by Lori Marino, President of the Whale Sanctuary Project, and the discussion that follows.)

In a time of mass extinction that’s been brought about by human exploitation, what should we do, bearing in mind that the situation can most likely not be turned around?

In this final session of the “I Am NOT an Animal!” symposium, Dr. Lori Marino, President of the Whale Sanctuary Project, talks about restitution: doing what we can, as best we can, to reduce the suffering of our fellow animals and make up for some of the great harm we’ve brought upon them.

Examples of restitution would include:

  • gaining legal rights for nonhuman animals;
  • compassionate conservation programs that promote less invasive and disruptive ways to manage human-nonhuman animal conflicts;
  • the Someone Project, which relates to farmed animals as individuals and families, not just as stock to be managed;
  • the no-kill movement, which has dramatically reduced the number of homeless dogs and cats being killed in shelters;
  • and sanctuaries for animals being retired from captivity.

Dr. Marino explores the work of sanctuaries, which provide refuge for animals who have been taken from their homes and families to be used for our entertainment, like in zoos, circuses and marine parks.

Since most of these animals grew up in captivity and never learned to live in their native habitats, they can never be returned to the wild. But life at a sanctuary, she says, can at least offer the closest thing to living in the wild: a new home where they can live in peace and dignity without exploitation.

A new home where they can live in peace and dignity without exploitation.There are already many sanctuaries for land-based animals. In North America, these include the Performing Animal Welfare Society, the Elephant Sanctuary, Save the Chimps, and Shambala – as well as Farm Sanctuary which specializes in animals rescued from the factory farm industry.

But there are no sanctuaries, so far, for whales and dolphins who could be retired from concrete tanks.

However, the situation for captive cetaceans is about to change. The National Aquarium in Baltimore is planning to close its dolphin exhibit and relocate the dolphins to a sanctuary. And the Whale Sanctuary Project is exploring potential locations for a sanctuary that would be the first of its kind: a cold water natural environment large enough to serve a population of at least eight orcas and belugas retired from entertainment parks.

The discussion that follows this talk focuses on some of the practical challenges in creating a sanctuary for whales and dolphins, selecting the best candidates, securing their release from captivity, transporting them, and then providing lifelong care, as well as the question of whether zoos can transform themselves into sanctuaries, as a few of them are considering.