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Could judge’s decision on elephants pave the way for captive dolphins?

In a landmark case a US judge has ruled in favour of captive elephants and against the Los Angeles Zoo.

Judge John L. Segal in his judgment against the Los Angeles Zoo noted that despite representation to the contrary from zoo staff, ‘the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving’.

Elephants are large brained, social, long lived mammals, who invest a great deal of time and effort in raising their offspring; attributes that can also be used to describe dolphins and orcas. Science has also shown that elephants are self-aware, one aspect of consciousness that was previously believed to be the preserve of humans and a select group of primates. Now the science demonstrates that bottlenose dolphins are also self-aware.

Judge Segal noted that ‘Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species… to believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional’.

The judge stopped short of ordering that the elephants should be release to a sanctuary. Nevertheless, the captivity tide is turning and this case bodes well for other large brained, social, sentient species, such as whales and dolphins.

Read a report of this landmark case here.