The BC SPCA is applauding the Parks Board decision to ban the display of cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium as a significant move forward for animal welfare.
“In the past 30 years, new research has emerged on the complexity of cetaceans and their ability to communicate, to create social bonds and to demonstrate cognitive abilities such as self-awareness, recognition of individuals and memory,” says Dr. Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer for the BC SPCA.
“As humans we know that confinement and social isolation in small indoor spaces without any control over our environment is emotionally damaging for our well-being. We now have evidence that for cetaceans appropriate social interaction and having enough diverse space are very basic requirements for their psychological well-being as well.”
Dubois says the BC SPCA has always been extremely supportive of the Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal rescue work and doesn’t believe a decision to ban the display of cetaceans would have impacted these efforts.
“The mammal rescue work is done offsite and is a small fraction of the aquarium’s $60-million budget,” she says.
The three non-releasable animals in the marine mammal rescue program do not need to be on display to meet their welfare needs, she adds, noting that other B.C. wild animal rescue centres, including the BC SPCA’s Wildlife Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Metchosin, do not put rescued wild animals on public display.
“The Parks Board has made a significant decision for the welfare of animals in our city and has demonstrated leadership internationally. If the aquarium believes their rescue program – which mainly treats non-cetaceans like harbour seals – is in jeopardy without cetaceans on display, the BC SPCA is more than willing to work with them to find a long-term solution for this important work.”