A video posted online showing a captive dolphin at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida kissing two trainers has gone viral. And we agree that it is noteworthy—but not for the reasons some might think.
A few have called the video “adorable.” But once you learn the truth behind it, you’ll find this “kiss” far from endearing.
The Facts About Diego
The dolphin who appears in the viral video is 21-year-old Diego, who lives in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando. His father was taken from the ocean and has since died, while his mother, Sandy, lives confined to a tiny tank at SeaWorld San Diego, where Diego was born. When he was just 3 years old, he was separated from his mother and moved to Discovery Cove in Orlando (another SeaWorld park). He was later moved to SeaWorld Orlando, where he currently lives. He has never felt the ocean’s currents.
SeaWorld may have ended its sordid orca-breeding program, but more than 150 other dolphins (such as Diego) and whales held captive at the parks may still be forcibly bred, sometimes after being drugged.
These trainers’ interaction with Diego isn’t just unnatural—it’s unsafe. Among the abnormal conditions that could contribute to skin disease in dolphins are stress-induced immune suppression and constant exposure to organisms found on human hands. At some SeaWorld parks, trainers aren’t the only ones who touch dolphins—park visitors can, too.
Discovery Cove, where Diego lived for some time, even offers one-on-one dolphin encounters that encourage guests to grab their dorsal fins and go for a ride. These encounters are dangerous for both the animals and the human participants and support cruel practices.
Not only does SeaWorld house dolphins such as Diego either in isolation or in incompatible groups, it also exploits their intelligence by forcing them to learn and perform cheap tricks (including the one displayed in the video above) that have proved harmful and even fatal to the animals.
More than 300 dolphins and whales (not including orcas) have died on SeaWorld’s watch—many of them prematurely.
Similar facilities are closing amid controversies, while others are opting to move dolphins and whales to seaside sanctuaries. Yet SeaWorld is still clinging to its sinking ship, and it’s bringing down all the animals it holds captive with it.
What You Can Do to Help Dolphins
Folks who “liked” or “loved” the video likely have good intentions. But if you truly care about dolphins and want the best for them, you can help Diego and the others being held captive. For starters, click below to urge SeaWorld to end all animal acts at its parks and release the dolphins and whales into seaside sanctuaries:
Then, share this article with your friends and family. Let them know why Diego’s kiss isn’t “adorable,” and encourage them to help all the animals imprisoned by SeaWorld, too: