This is Betsy—she’s a Commerson’s dolphin, also known as a “skunk dolphin” or “panda dolphin.” She was just a baby when she was caught in the ocean and transferred to an aquarium in 1983. Eleven other dolphins were also captured at this time, and half of the group died within a year.
As days turned to months, months turned to years, and years turned to decades, Betsy’s world—which once consisted of vast open ocean waters and her family pod—became smaller and smaller as she was forced to live in SeaWorld’s chlorinated, concrete tanks. Her only species-specific companions were Juan and his offspring Ringer, and the park did nothing to prevent them from mating with one another. Betsy witnessed the loss of Ringer’s two babies—one was stillborn, and the other died a few days after birth.
As criticism rose against SeaWorld and its cruel confinement of orcas and other dolphins faced even higher scrutiny, the money-hungry company saw an opportunity to make a profit by relocating Betsy, Juan, and Ringer. Since they don’t have the same money-making appeal as orcas, they were put into tanks with beluga whales. These two species live in completely different parts of the world and are incompatible with one another in captivity: The larger belugas often take out their frustrations on the smaller dolphins.
Betsy, Juan, and Ringer were reportedly moved to a tank in the back of SeaWorld San Diego since they were unpopular with visitors. All three were then shipped across the country to SeaWorld Aquatica in Orlando in January 2016, and days after the move, Betsy died at age 33.
Dolphins are highly intelligent and social animals. In the wild, they sometimes live with up to 1,000 other dolphins in a pod, travel up to 60 miles per day, and navigate by echolocation. But in captivity, they’re forced to swim in endless circles, with their sonar bouncing off walls, which drives some of them insane.
Juan and Ringer remain at SeaWorld Aquatica in Orlando. Twenty Commerson’s dolphins have reportedly died on SeaWorld’s watch over the last 30 years—and more than 60 dolphins have died at its parks in just the last 10 years. Because of poor breeding practices and failed marketing tactics, the remaining Commerson’s dolphins at SeaWorld will be the last to experience the abusement park’s concrete tanks.
What You Can Do
If you love animals, never go to SeaWorld or any other marine park or aquarium that profits from the captivity of orcas, porpoises, and other sea life.