Did the dolphin recognize himself in the mirror?

Object marine mammals: whales & dolphins

Dolphins look so cute, so cuddly, so personable, so cuddly. We easily forget that they are not products, not things, but living beings.

We teach young children to love these naturally and certainly beautiful creatures of our earth: we go with them to dolphinariums, zoos and dolphin shows, give them cuddly toys in the shape of dolphins, and prefer to watch documentaries in which they have one next to other pretty animals Take a leading role. Some people (who may be financially a little more liquid or have been saving for a long time) enable themselves and their children to have the unforgettable experience of swimming with the wonderful marine mammals, caressing them and experiencing them up close - live and in color.

And this is exactly where the child has already literally fallen into the well. Namely in those of the mass media industry, which has only one goal: exploiting the dolphin (and the whale) as a financially worthwhile object.

Rick O'Barry finds in his disturbing and incredibly worth seeing film “The Cove” the right word for what to do with the dolphins and also with the whales (the following remarks partly also refer to the large marine mammals, even if they of course not 1 : 1 can be transferred) has been happening for decades: An entertainment industry in the multi-billion dollar area has established itself.

This now includes a completely sophisticated system for marketing, selling and utilizing these animals - always to the benefit of humans and to the detriment of the dolphin.

In Germany alone there was once a total of 14 dolphinariums - that is, companies whose main source of income was working with dolphins.

Fortunately, there are now only two of them (in Duisburg and Nuremberg) - but we can ask ourselves whether that is still two too many. The following explanations are intended to show why.

One thing should be said in advance: It is difficult to understand terms like animal and intelligent to use in one sentence. From a philosophical as well as a general ethical point of view, we have to ask ourselves whether the concept of Animal as well as the one who intelligence - based on this living being - is at all appropriate. Because implies animal not always a condescending degradation of the designated living being (remember sayings like “you animal!”, “he behaves like an animal!” and the like - more details in this article)? And: Isn't it completely anthropocentric (i.e. from a human point of view) if we use our yardstick (no matter how precisely it is sharpened with technical instruments) to assign or deny intelligence to other living beings to a certain degree?

In this post I would therefore like to simply by Creature and not from Animals speak. Among other things, this has to do with the enormous cognitive and social performance dolphins and whales are capable of. However, in order to be able to grasp things in a somewhat uncomplicated way in terms of language, I will nevertheless refer to the term intelligence stay, as this is the easiest way to understand what is meant and to establish a linguistic reference point more quickly. Of course, we should always be aware of the linguistic component when using the term.

With regard to this intelligence, there is - as is actually the case with almost all topics that are examined in more detail - Studies and research opinions that are broad and sometimes far, very far, diverge.

Since the great success of the pinball series in the 60s of the last century (which, incidentally, was also largely responsible for getting the entire dolphin business started), it has been generally assumed and spread that dolphins are extraordinarily intelligent creatures , would have a complex social structure and a brain, made for high cognitive performance.

Numerous studies speak for it - nevertheless there have been scientists in recent years who believe they have found the opposite or try to alleviate the euphoria of the previous decades.

Criteria for an “intelligent” living being, measured against human conditions, include the use of tools, complex social relationships and - as a peak - self-awareness, manifested in self-awareness in the mirror.

Dolphins now master all mirror tests with flying colors, convince through playful behavior, the maintenance of a complex social structure, good memory (they can recognize sound patterns of a certain person or a certain other dolphin even after 20 years) and, among other things, the ability to quickly use symbolic forms of communication (e.g. sign language) and respond appropriately.

The sticking point with regard to the question of the intelligence of marine mammals are two essential aspects:

  • Is the dolphin such a special feature in the animal kingdom as has always been assumed up to now?
  • Can the dolphin brain actually produce such cognitive functions as are sometimes ascribed to it?

Recent studies seek to relativize the pioneering role that the dolphin plays in the research of its intelligence in comparison with humans, by critically questioning the previous findings that have been gained since the beginning of research by John Lilly in the 1950s. Were the comparison values ​​permissible? Was it actually based on the correct basic assumptions?

Several tests with other animal species (e.g. sea lions, magpies, crows, chimpanzees and elephants) show that these creatures also have an excellent memory, sometimes complex social relationships and an overall high level of intelligence. (1)

From these results it can now be concluded that dolphins cannot generally be regarded as the special case in the animal kingdom as they are usually considered, but that they are at least on a par with the other animal species mentioned, if according to their degree of intelligence is asked.

The question, however, should rather not be whether dolphins are “ordinary” after all based on these findings and therefore deserve an average treatment, as is also due to other animal species - but rather whether we do not change our attitude towards these (and all others) Must fundamentally change towards animal species.

Apart from that, from a scientific perspective it is anything but productive to relate the intelligence of different species to one another - the individual requirements of the living being are too different, the respective requirements that it brings with it are too different:

To name just a few differences: The dolphin lives in water and is predominantly an acoustic specialist. Primates live on land and sight and smell play an important role in them. These causal differences have given rise to further differences that affect many aspects of behavior. I believe that questions like: are some animals more intelligent than others? not helping us to grasp the cognitive potential of an animal, Dr. von Fersen, dolphin expert at the Nuremberg Dolphinarium, 7

The second point of criticism is aimed at the neuronal structure of the dolphin brain: Can these brains even produce the cognitive performance that is necessary for the abilities assigned to marine mammals?

Since the first research around Lilly, the approach that the intelligence of a living being can be measured by the size of its brain has spread. Only in the later decades did it come to the thesis that it is less a question of size than of the neural interconnection within the brain.

And it is precisely this that is now being questioned in terms of its severity: Some studies suggest that dolphins do not have as well networked brains as was previously suspected with some euphoria - on the one hand they simply lacked the amount of neurons and on the other hand the cerebral cortex is closed thin in order to be able to guarantee an exceptionally high cognitive capacity of the brain. (1)

On the other side of this debate are researchers who counter these arguments with the above-average and conspicuously detailed folding of the dolphins 'brains: The dolphins' brains are indeed smaller (in relation to their own body size) than that of humans, but they have numerous folds (we can imagine it like folding a curtain) a much larger surface. This particularly affects brain areas around the neocortex, which is responsible for generating self-confidence (we remember: an important factor for intelligence!) And more complicated thought processes. (3)

The reason I have expanded the intelligence-yes-or-no-and-if-yes-to-what-degree debate here is this:

The question of the intelligence of a living being determines how it is treated by humans.

Intelligence is an important - sometimes even vital - criterion. To the extent that it guarantees the respective species more or less human sympathy. We like and appreciate everything that is similar to us. We have respect for such living beings, see what is human in them directly, reflecting ourselves.

But it goes even further: The question of the intelligence of other living beings - which can be compared with ours, yes, which may even be able to surpass ours! - is also and especially one of the politically granted rights: How can one treat living beings that have such capacities and abilities? Who perceive everything, who are self-aware? They know - at any point in time - who they are, what is happening to them and who have feelings, sensations similar to ours?

As a consequence, demands have already been made not only for great apes, but also for dolphins and whales, which grant them the characteristic of a “non-human personality” and thus comprehensive basic rights - similar or exactly the same as those that are laid down for every human being . (3.4)

When dolphins can actively work together, have their own language system, display intelligent problem-solving skills, can play (another important criterion for intelligence), use tools to mourn the deceased, are self-aware and, among other things, successful hunting techniques and other knowledge Pass on over generations - then the question arises whether the time has not come to rethink our view of humans and the living beings around them.

And the question arises why - despite all ’these findings - we still allow thousands of these marine mammals worldwide to die a (painful) death every year.

There are many reasons for this, but all of them can be traced back to one basis: human greed for profit. Because at least since that pinball mania in the 60s, the mass entertainment industry has discovered the apparently always smiling marine mammal for itself. That is a big factor: dolphinariums, zoos, shows in which the intelligent creatures are held, demonstrated and tortured - to the point of death.

There are various mechanisms for the exploitation of dolphins - however, so-called “dolphinariums” have particularly stood out.

A dolphinarium or dolphinarium is a form of animal husbandry in which dolphins or other whales live in captivity. Usually they are trained and perform appropriate tricks. A distinction is made between scientifically managed dolphinariums, such as in the Duisburg Zoo or the Nuremberg Zoo, which both conduct research and have an educational mandate, and pure show dolphinariums, such as SeaWorld. These shows are for the entertainment of the audience only. Wikipedia, 8

The mentioned differentiation between entertainment and science dolphinariums is probably the only reason to legitimize the existence of the two mentioned dolphinariums - because the two examples in Duisburg and Nuremberg are the only ones that still exist in Germany, all the others have already been closed.

As in the case of zoos, the (justified) criticism of dolphinariums is diverse:

  • The environment consists predominantly of pools cast from concrete. On the one hand, this is absolutely not comparable with the living underwater world that marine mammals are normally allowed to experience and therefore extremely boring. On the other hand, the walls increasingly throw back the echoes that help living beings to orientate themselves underwater - disorientation is the mildest of the consequential damage that dolphins suffer as a result.
  • As a rule, the dolphins are kept isolated - which absolutely does not correspond to their natural need for social closeness and communicative exchange within a dolphin group.
  • The constant contact with people - especially the constant physical contact and the high noise level in the dolphinariums - also stresses the dolphins.
  • The dolphins are served food that they would never eat in nature: dead fish. In addition, antibiotics are usually added to these to prevent stress-related ulcers from breaking out.
  • When they have contact with other members of their own species, it takes place in a very confined space - the dolphins cannot avoid each other even in a conflict - there is aggression and injuries.
  • Performing the same movements over and over again, following the same daily routine, does not challenge the dolphins and does not do justice to their intelligence.
  • The argument that living beings wouldn't know it any other way because they were born in captivity does not work: breeding in dolphinariums has so far failed - most dolphins are wild-caught, which are caught in deadly driven hunts and dragged off. Here family groups are torn apart and thousands of dolphins are killed.

It is not known exactly what conditions prevail in the dolphinariums, as the most important data are not made public: import and death lists are just as closed to the public as the medication lists.

However, it can be assumed that the dolphins not only get antibiotics but also psychotropic drugs mixed into their food in order to be able to cope with the daily stress halfway. Creatures that swim up to 150 kilometers every day in the wild and dive up to 300 meters deep cannot be kept within a few square meters without serious health consequences.

Organized hunts for dolphins and whales are still being held. Although most countries in the world have now agreed to no longer hunt marine mammals, the guidelines are still being circumvented in two areas: Whales and dolphins are still hunted in Japan and in the Faroe Islands - this is how they are hunted annually Thousands of dolphins killed.

Particularly negative fame is due to the award-winning and extremely ingenious documentary film “The Bay”, which was filmed by Richard O'Barry among others, the Japanese book at Taiji: In a grueling action, O'Barry and his team succeeded in the mass slaughter to watch the dolphins, which every year colors the water of the bay blood red and decimates the dolphin population by around 120,000 creatures.

The legitimation - the only legally permissible - is: You are acting in the name of science.

The dolphins (and whales) would be dissected, examined and scientific knowledge derived from their catches. The capture of marine mammals is therefore purely scientifically motivated. That’s the official statement.

The fact is, however, that many of the dolphins that end up in the massacre, which is only carried out by a few organized fishermen (according to the documentary, most Japanese people know nothing about it), end up as packaged meat packages in discount stores. You earn real money with them.

One problem with this is that dolphins are at the top of the sea food chain. Due to human interventions, among other things, there is more and more methylmercury in the sea, which accumulates in the organisms living in it - the value accumulated in fat increases tenfold per food chain level.

So dolphins are floating mercury barrels - their meat is unlikely to be toxic.

The other, less official explanation (which, by the way, is also put forward by the Faroe Islands): It is a matter of tradition. You've been doing it for centuries, don't let a few animal rights activists spoil you.

The animals caught - those that are not killed - are sold to dolphinariums and zoos around the world (Sea World is also on the delivery list, by the way).

A live dolphin is worth up to $ 150,000, a dead dolphin around $ 600.11

Richard O’Barry - once the trainer of the dolphins who had to play pinball - has decided to wage an unprecedented fight for the dolphins after the drastic suicide (she deliberately stopped breathing) one of the female dolphins. He asks questions, shows up, is uncomfortable - and for this he is persecuted, imprisoned (now for the first time in Japan itself) and attacked.

But if you look at “The Bay”, you can see the passion with which he and his team do everything to ensure that the world learns about the crime that happens there every year in Taiji - then you can do nothing else but to this man admire. When he stands there, in the Japanese pedestrian zone, with the television set on his belt, on which the images of the slaughtered marine mammals pass by in a continuous loop, then one wonders why it hasn't stopped long ago. And where the others are actually. The others are voices.

The problem is: there are no more offspring. We are getting old and there is no one in the next generation to continue our work.

"Outrage!" is the name of Stephané Hessel's manifesto, whose title fits so well here. We are indignant! Let's spread the information about the exploitation of dolphins and whales, the facts about the slaughter, we ask why someone like Richard O'Barry is constantly persecuted and hindered in his work, why thousands of dolphins are still killed every year, why the law be relaxed and politicians look the other way.

The vastness of the Internet gives us the opportunity to become active - each and every within his or her framework and with what he or she can achieve:

  • On the website of the Oceanic Preservation Society you can keep up to date with current projects of Ric O’Barry and his team and make donations. There you can also buy the film “The Bay”.
  • On the site of the Dolphin Project (founded by Ric O’Barry) there is tons of information on the subject.
  • There is even more information and opportunities to get involved on The Cove's website.
  • And there is even more information at the International Marine Mammal Project
  • Other things you can do: Stop visiting dolphinariums and zoos. Educate other people about the background of these institutions.

Between all this bad and gruesome news, there seems to be the first fruits of the commitment: For example, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) threatened to expel the Japanese Association (JAZA), among others, if it did not close its relations with the dolphin catchers in Taiji hired.

Of course, this does not mean that the dolphin hunts are a thing of the past - but there seems to be at least a first decline in the catch quotas - in the past season, instead of the usual 1500-2500, “only” around 800 dolphins were caught, including around 100 alive - the rest were killed. However, 80% of the living specimens were exported to foreign buyers who have nothing to do with JAZA - the boycott does not necessarily bear direct fruit, but it is an important symbol.

Let's hope that the good news of this kind will increase in the future. It cannot and must not be that such intelligent, sensitive and socially sensitive living beings continue to be subjected to the human pursuit of pleasure in such a cruel and tailless manner and to be killed, eaten, mutilated, abused and - in the end - enslaved, just so that we become a seemingly smiling marine mammal without reflection can applaud.

Maybe we should finally change our perspective - and ask ourselves what we can actually learn from them instead of always trying to teach them something and force them to do so.

Of course, I couldn't go into all forms of exploitation of dolphins and whales here - there would be things like therapy with dolphins, missions for the navy and other things, for example - but I think the article has become long enough and that too I am grateful that you have read it through to the end.

(1) http://www.tagesspiegel.de/wissen/ausgeflippert-delfine-sind-keine-ueberflieger/9032932.html

(2) http://www.focus.de/wissen/natur/tiere-und- Pflanzen/war-flipper-eine-luege-delfine-sind-gar-nicht-so-schlau-wie-gedacht_id_4197297.html

(3) http://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/article6534940/Delfin-haben-Mensch-an-Intellektiven-kaum-nach.html>

(4) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-17116882

(5) http://de.whales.org/wale-und-delfine/intellektiven

(6) http://de.whales.org/news/2016/07/wale-und-delfine-trauern-um-verstorbene

(7) http://www.meeresakrobaten.de/delfine/anatomie/delfin-gehirn-und-tierische-intellektiven/

(8) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delfinarium

(9) http://www.peta.de/delfinarien-grundwissen

(10) http://www.peta.de/delfinariendeutschland

(11) https://netzfrauen.org/2016/01/19/36928/