Qantas clarifies connection with dolphin parks after other travel companies sever ties

Michael Dahlstrom
·News and Video Producer

Families who traditionally enjoyed watching performing dolphins are being urged to reconsider trips to these animal theme parks.

Major travel companies like Virgin Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada have cut ties with the captive dolphin industry, leading to Yahoo Lifestyle seeking a clarification from Qantas as to their position.

Following discussions about whether Qantas promoted or partnered with dolphinariums, a spokesperson for the airline responded.

Split image, on the left five dolphins leaping during a show, on the right a shot of a trainer standing on a dolphins nose.
Dolphins performing with a trainer at a theme park. Source: Getty Images

“We don’t promote these types of venues,” the Qantas spokesperson said.

“As Australia’s largest airline we know we have a responsibility to ensure organisations we partner with meet our own expectations and that of the community.”

Following publication of this article, a Qantas spokesperson called to further clarify the organisation’s relationship with dolphin parks, then issued an email containing the following points.

  • We have arrangements to sell thousands of hotels and tourism attractions to our customers on our websites.

  • Both Qantas and Jetstar sell hotel rooms and entry tickets to the theme parks on the Gold Coast including Sea World.

  • We understand that there are mixed views in the community on this issue, but with many of our customers wanting to go to Sea World while holidaying on the Gold Coast we will continue to make this available to them.

‘Kangaroos don’t walk backwards’

After hearing the revised statement from Qantas, Ben Pearson, Head of Campaigns for World Animal Protection contacted Yahoo News Australia.

“Kangaroos don’t walk backwards but Qantas just did on its recent Sea World,” he said.

“If you sell tickets to captive dolphin parks, you sell tickets to animal cruelty.

“Qantas’ original commitment would have moved us closer to a future where the only place that people could see dolphins is in the wild, where they belong.

“Given the significant role they play, we need the airlines, travel companies and tour operators to show leadership on this issue.

‘Attendance trends continue to increase’

Sea World on the Gold Coast, owned by Village Roadshow, told Yahoo Lifestyle their dolphin shows continue to receive strong support from travel agencies.

“We have invested heavily and will continue to invest in Sea World and remain confident of the long-term future of the park,” they said.

“Our attendance trends continue to increase, and our guests enjoy visiting the park and our marine exhibits.”

‘Not publicly accepted’ - dolphin captivity

While Sea World is looking to expand operations, Australia’s only other dolphinarium, Dolphin Marine Conservation Park is investigating a radically different approach.

The Coffs Harbour based park has stopped its breeding program and is conducting a feasibility study, alongside Action for Dolphins and World Animal Protection, to retire its animals into sea pens.

Dolphin Marine Conservation Park’s managing director Terry Goodall told Yahoo Lifestyle that family expectations have changed.

“Having whales and dolphins and belugas, other marine mammals in captivity is not publicly accepted these days,” he said.

“There’s no way you would want someone to go out and capture a dolphin and put it in captivity and have it perform for humans - you just wouldn’t do that anymore.”

A dolphin is given instructions from trainer at a aquarium
A dolphin interacts with a trainer. Source: Getty Images.

Taking Canada’s lead

NSW politician Emma Hurst praised initiatives to move dolphins back into the sea, saying she is working towards Australia’s dolphins having a “happier future”.

“I would like to see some legislation that’s similar to what happened in Canada that would ensure that cetaceans aren’t held in captivity for the purposes of entertainment,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Other countries that have put an end to dolphin parks include Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Hungary, India, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The last dolphinarium in the United Kingdom closed in 1993.

Dolphins in the wild leaping over surf
Wild dolphins surf on a wave. Source: Getty Images

‘Go dolphin watching the natural way’

Chelsea Hannah from Justice for Captives has urged holidaymakers to stop buying tickets for dolphin shows at tourist parks like Sea World.

“Teaching children that using animals for human entertainment is not okay,” she urged parents.

“Go to the park and have a picnic, go to the beach, go dolphin watching the natural way.

“We’re fortunate to be living in Australia where you can walk along the coastline and see not only dolphins but maybe whales, even a sea turtle.”

An earlier version of this article indicated that Qantas had cut ties with dolphin parks.

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