We have really enjoyed our daily walks along 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. While we don’t partake in the shopping or restaurants it has been a great street for the Younger Fives to let off some steam. Since 5th Avenue is a pedestrian only street, the kids can go wild and run to their hearts’ content. However, each one of our trips along 5th Avenue has come with a dose of sadness and anger as we see wild animals being exploited.
One of the major tourist attractions in this part of Mexico is captive dolphin experiences. There are multiple businesses along the Mayan Riviera that allow tourists to swim with captive dolphins. These dolphins have been taken from the wild, separated from their pods, and often severely mistreated in the process. Once in captivity they are kept in very small cages and pools, were they are forced to interact with humans on a daily basis. Here are a few quick facts that highlight the miserable conditions that dolphins face in captivity.
- Captive dolphins have very little space to swim. A wild dolphin may swim up to 40 miles in one day. Once in captivity they no longer have this freedom.
- The dolphins’ natural sonar is very sensitive and all the noise that they are subjected to in captivity (pool filters, noisy crowds, etc.) is very hurtful to them.
- The act of being captured causes enormous stress to the dolphin, which weakens their immune system and leaves them susceptible to diseases.
- Dolphins in captivity don’t perform tricks or interact with humans because they want to; instead they are trained to do these tasks using food as a reward.
- The process of capturing dolphins is a very brutal and violent event in which an entire pod is surrounded and beaten. Only the youngest and most fit are taken into captivity while the rest are slaughtered for their meat.
Each day as we walked down 5th Avenue we were approached by multiple people trying to sell us tickets to a captive dolphin experience. At almost every block there is a ticket salesman or woman waiting to entice tourists into swimming with dolphins. While these people are just trying to make a living, it was very hard for the Younger Fives not to scream at them about the horrors of keeping dolphins in captivity. We tried to explain to the kids that the people that really need to be educated about this horrible process are the tourists. Our family was really inspired by The Family Adventure Project, a traveling family who visited Taiji, Japan, which is infamous for its cove where many dolphins are captured and killed.
You might have heard of the documentary The Cove, which won several awards for its coverage of dolphin hunting and capture practices in Japan. While in Taiji The Family Adventure Project watched this eye opening documentary and decided to take action to raise awareness about the horrors of capturing and killing dolphins. We were inspired by what they did and decided that here in the Mayan Riviera tourists needed to be made aware of how captive dolphins are treated. We decided that we could do the most good by letting people know the truth about dolphins in captivity through our blog and TripAdvisor recommendations. While it is still hard for us all to walk down the street and be silent towards the horrible practice of these “dolphin experiences” we feel like in some small way we are doing our part.
Sadly, dolphins aren’t the only wild animals being exploited in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Along 5th Avenue you will find several adults with monkeys, lemurs and humongous snakes. These people will approach tourists asking them if they want their picture taken with the animal. They will then charge money for the picture thereby making this a very successful street business. Sadly these animals have been taken from the wild at a very young age and are kept in an unnatural state just to make money for their captors. Every tourist that stops to have their picture taken is contributing to the suffering and capture of these wild animals.
In our travels we have been very fortunate to experience animals in the wild, including the national parks of the United States and the coast lines of Mexico. However, in every case we understood that there is a barrier between humans and the animals. They need to stay in their habitat, and we need to do our best to leave them undisturbed. We have been fortunate enough to be in the ocean several times in Mexico and the United States when a pod of dolphins swims by. It is an amazing feeling to watch them jump the waves and hear them chattering. However, these dolphins don’t swim up and let you grab their dorsal fins or do fancy tricks. They are wild animals with their own lives to lead. When you see a dolphin jumping through hoops or kissing kids you need to realize that they have been forced into these actions. We hope that other travelers will come to the Mayan Riviera and experience its beauty. However, please make sure that you do so in a way without exploiting animals. As the kids always say, “That could just as easily be a human in that cage or someone’s cute toddler on that leash”.