World Animal Protection stormed Expedia’s HQ to demand they cut ties with dolphinariums (Picture: WAP/Metro.co.uk)

Animal rights campaigners are ramping up the pressure on travel giant Expedia to stop selling tickets to captive dolphin shows.

World Animal Protection (WAP) activists descended on the company’s headquarters on Thursday in Angel, London, carrying a life-sized dolphin on a stretcher.

Activists waved placards demanding the world’s biggest earning travel company to ‘stop profiting from dolphin cruelty’ and cut all ties with aquariums that keep the mammals for human entertainment.

The group claims Expedia is a ‘significant driver’ of the damaging industry, adding that it sells tickets for 48 different attractions which hold about 600 captive dolphins.

In total, the group said 3,000 dolphins are currently in captivity across the world cramped in ‘tiny, barren, concrete tanks’, are starved ahead of performances, and even given Valium to calm their high stress levels.

WAP’s Katheryn Wise told Metro.co.uk behind the ‘glossy facade’ of the shows, the dolphins endure such intense ‘psychological pressure’ that they begin to ‘self-mutilate’ in a desperate bid to get out of the tanks.

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World Animal Protection claim their pleas have been falling on deaf ears with Expedia bosses (Picture: Metro.co.uk)
Many dolphins in captivity begin to self-mutilate due to stress (Picture: WAP)

Many are torn apart from their pods in the wild by boats driving them into a small bay area, before hunters jump in the water and cherry-pick the ones that look the best, while calves are ripped apart from their mothers too young.

‘They start to show signs of aggression to one another. It’s incredibly stressful for them,’ the wildlife campaigns manager told this news site.

‘They are very social animals which live in large groups so to randomly pull one out will have a great affect on the whole pod.

‘They will chew on the bars of their tank and suffer dental issues as a result. Raking is another common sign of stress when they scrape their teeth on other dolphins.

‘They don’t do that in the wild it’s just when they are in captivity when they’re moved from group to group.

‘They constantly have to figure out a new social hierarchy with strange dolphins they don’t know.’

The activists brought a life-sized dolphin to highlight the issue (Picture: WAP)
The number of captive dolphins by country kept at tourism facilities (Picture: WAP)
The group said Expedia sells tickets for around 48 attractions managing about 600 dolphins in captivity (Picture: WAP)

WAP claim they have sent around 4,000 emails to Expedia and have even met bosses in person but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and have resorted to taking to the streets.

Expedia said it is working with animal rights protection groups to review its policy and has removed some ‘wildlife interactions’ from their websites last year.

But WAP wants them to go further to join TripAdvisor, Virgin Holidays, British Airways Holidays and Booking.com, which have all cut ties with zoos and dolphinariums.

The animal rights group said dolphins usually roam an area of about 100 to 400 sq km – the equivalent of 70 Hyde Parks – but their findings showed the average tank is the size of an Imax cinema screen.

Global Head of Campaigns Nick Stewart, who was one of many outside the travel company’s offices today, said most of the animal cruelty is covered up by the stage lights, theatrical music and tricks.

‘It distracts you from seeing a wild animal in a concrete tank,’ added Nick, who today called on Expedia to open talks with the group again.

Size comparison of a dolphins average home range in the wild (blue box) against the largest captive dolphin enclosure (yellow speck) (Picture: WAP)
Katheryn Wise and Nick Stewart campaigned outside of the headquarters today (Picture: Metro.co.uk)
Activists say the theatrical nature of the shows makes you forget it’s an animal in a concrete tank (Picture: WAP)
They took signed postcards to the offices protesting for change (Picture: WAP)

‘In the wild the dolphin would hunt fresh fish but they are given dead frozen fish which lacks the nutrients and water content to give them the hydration they need.

‘Dolphin trainers then perform a process called tubing, which is force-feeding them water down their throat.

‘You will see visitors being duped into feeding them ice cubes or gelatin cubes which have nutritional value.

‘Visitors go with the best intentions and even cry when they see them because they think they’re having a magical connection but what it actually is, is an animal motivated by hunger’.

WAP campaigner Morvah George said many tricks the dolphins are asked to do tricks which are unnatural for them, such as beaching, which audiences are tricked into believing the animal is enjoying.

‘Sadly, there’s this characteristic of their face which makes it look as though they’re smiling,’ added the activist.

Many dolphins in captivity are believed to be given Valium to manage their stress (Picture: WAP)
The protest took place outside offices in Angel, London (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

‘It’s an evolutionary quirk which sadly gives this impression to tourists that they’re incredibly happy but we know that a tank is an incredibly small space to be cramped in for the rest of its life.

‘It’s a huge concern and being forced to engage with humans is completely unnatural.’

An Expedia spokesperson said: ‘We are working closely with globally respected organizations to re-examine our animal welfare policy.

‘We are still working on the policy and while we can share there will be particular focus on the value of those that are members of and/or are accredited by The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums or one of their regionally recognized organizations, we have no news to share today.

‘We will also be clarifying existing policies and developing new policies related to animal activities outside of zoos and aquariums.’





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