Meet Nova, Mother Of 8 Dead Calves At The Indy Zoo
Meet Nova, a bottlenose dolphin at the Indianapolis Zoo. Here is her heartbreaking story.
She was 5 years old and swimming with her family, or pod, in the Gulf of Mexico in 1988 when she was captured in a net and pulled into the boat. She would never see the family she had spent her entire life with again.
Although we don’t have footage of Nova’s capture, this video will give you an idea of the process of taking a dolphin from the wild and delivering it to a marine park or zoo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6dMFyKIfhc
From that day forward, Nova’s life was no longer her own. Her “purpose” in life was re-written that day by her captors from one of strong family bonds, daily social interactions and swimming free in the sea, to nothing more than a performance act at an amusement park. Her value was now linked to the show she could put on for guests at a zoo.
She was moved and transported to new locations five different times, ending up finally at the Indianapolis Zoo as her final home in 1992.
Nova’s home was once the Atlantic Ocean where should could swim free with her family for up to 50 miles per day. The tanks at the Indianapolis Zoo are TINY compared to her natural ocean environment, which we think is extremely cruel. To put it in perspective, the Gulf of Mexico consists of 617,800 square miles of water. The Indy dolphins now have a total of around .002 square miles (and that is being generous, also including the area of the holding tanks).
This article from National Geographic by Maddalena Bearzi of Ocean Conservation Society explains in more detail the many reasons why captivity is excruciatingly cruel for dolphins: Debunking Captivity; 3 Reasons Not to keep Dolphins in a Tank http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/08/debunking-captivity-3-reasons-not-to-keep-dolphins-in-a-tank/
Consider the frustration and sadness of a wild dolphin being forced to live where Nova currently lives:
Motherhood And Loss
Captivity takes a heavy toll on baby dolphin mortality. Nova has given birth to 9 babies, 8 of them are dead. I wonder whether people would still support this if they watched footage of the 8 lifeless bodies being dragged from the water. Of course, the Indianapolis Zoo would never show you that. How agonizing and painful it must be for Nova to experience this much loss.
Dolphin mothers love and protect their babies. Mothers have been witnessed in the wild swimming after boats for miles after their babies were stolen from them. The Zoo will tell you they care about the dolphins, but their actions speak otherwise.
A Stolen Lifetime
Do you remember visiting the zoo as a child? Do you have fond memories of watching the dolphin shows? Let’s say someone went in 1992 at the age of 10. Maybe they cheered and watched Nova doing tricks. That person would now be 35 years old. Following that zoo visit, they have lived half a lifetime…likely graduating from high school, going to college, getting their first job and becoming a career professional, maybe even getting married and having a 10 year old of their own by now. This entire time following that visit 25 years ago, Nova has been circling that tiny tank over and over again, performing tricks for fish while that child went on about their life. How can we justify this in any reasonable discussion about ethics and animal treatment?
Change Is Coming
It’s well past time for the Indianapolis Zoo to re-evaluate their stance on keeping dolphins in captivity. Sea World has recently announced they will no longer breed orcas or make them perform in shows. The National Aquarium in Baltimore announced they will move all of their dolphins to a protected Oceanside habitat. Just last week, France joined many other countries and banned breeding dolphins in captivity.
The writing is on the wall, this out dated practice is ending. It’s time for the Indianapolis Zoo to show some compassion toward Nova and the other 9 dolphins living at the Zoo and end the failed breeding program and begin the process of moving them to an Oceanside sanctuary.
Information on capture date, movement and transport, and baby births and deaths is from: www.cetabase.org/captive/cetacean/indianapolis-zoo
The size of the tanks at the Indianapolis Zoo taken from Shyan, M, Merrit, D. 2002: Effects of Pool Size on Free-Choice Selections by Atlantic Bottlenosed Dolphins at Once Zoo Facility. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.
France bans captive breeding of dolphins and whales: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-france-captive-dolphins-killer-whales.html
The National Aquarium will move dolphins to a sanctuary: www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-national-aquarium-moving-dolphins-sanctuary-20160613-story.html
The Cove: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aESBZIBdJI0
Blackfish (trailer): www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmRv4kIul38 (available on Netflix)