Resorts World Sentosa today said it is “uncertain of the source” of a viral video purportedly showing a dolphin in distress inside its aquarium.
The “concerning footage” showing “a dolphin repeatedly slamming their head into the wall” was brought to light by the international anti-dolphin and whale captivity organization Empty The Tanks. The 30-second clip was on Sunday posted to its Facebook page as well as that of The Cove dolphin documentary, accumulating nearly 400,000 views in total.
In response to Coconuts Singapore’s inquiries, an unnamed resort spokesperson played down the concerns and said the behavior may be natural among cetaceans.
“We are uncertain of the source of the video but we can share some natural behavioral traits of dolphins. Dolphins have a natural curiosity about people and their surroundings. They are also very social and enjoy playing with other dolphins,” the statement read.
“As part of their natural behavior, they communicate with each other through echolocation, making high-pitched clicking sounds and other playful actions such as nudging objects using their rostrums to attract attention.”
Empty The Tanks as well as viewers, however, saw nothing playful about the dolphin’s actions.
The video post read: “Some very concerning footage has been brought to our attention by an Empty The Tanks Supporter of a dolphin repeatedly slamming their head into the wall at S.E.A. Aquarium in Singapore. This distressing behavior is one of the many reasons dolphins do not belong in captivity,” the post read.
Commenters from around the world and in Singapore have condemned the clip in the comments.
“Self-harm is a sign of severe stress but aquariums and marine parks somehow think this is desirable…” commenter Alejandro Varela from South Africa wrote.
“She is trying to commit suicide.. this is what you get keeping animals in captivity.. just for your entertainment. I am gutted…” a Patrick Bogema from Thailand said.
“If it wants to go, please let him go… He is not a prisoner,” Singaporean Chan Mun Hong said.
“Oh dear, this is terrible. I know my girl loves animals and in our concrete jungle, it’s hard to expose her to live animals regularly so such places are great for that but man… I wonder if there’s a better way around this because this is really upsetting,” another local Jeanne Lee wrote.
The Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) tourist attraction houses marine life at its S.E.A. Aquarium. Over at the Adventure Cove Waterpark right next to it, visitors can interact with bottlenose dolphins, come face-to-face with sharks and stingrays.
“Dolphin Island is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), and we are committed to providing the highest level of husbandry and veterinary care for our marine mammals,” the spokesperson added in its statement.
With that said, dolphins have died at the resort’s marine life park before. In 2014, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urged the resort to release its 23 remaining wild-caught dolphins following the fourth death of a dolphin in the facility.