More than 92 per cent of nearly 4,000 respondents to the most recent Caymanian Compass on-line poll said they do not think the Cayman Islands should have a captive dolphin facility as a tourist attraction.
The poll, which ran for two weeks, received ten times more responses than any other Caymanian Compass poll to date.
Responses came from many countries, including the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, Canada, and Italy.
The poll was also the first run by the Caymanian Compass to have significant ballot-box stuffing efforts. More than 10,000 duplicated ‘yes’ votes had to be deleted, and more than 6,000 ‘no’ votes were deleted.
In the end, 271 (6.9 per cent) ‘yes’ votes were cast, and 3,624 (92.2 per cent) ‘no’ votes were cast. Another 37 (0.9 per cent) votes were cast for ‘don’t know’.
Despite the duplicate votes, Cayman Free Press IT staffer Nigel Hollyman said he feels the results were accurate.
‘It is normally quite obvious which votes are duplicated,’ Mr. Hollyman said. ‘Ihe IP (Internet Protocol) address is the same, for a start. The times the votes are made is logged and will show people that are just sitting there clicking the button every few minutes or seconds.’
Mr. Hollyman said he was able to identify two specific computers that were sending ‘yes’ votes by the hundreds, and one specific computer that was sending ‘no’ votes by the hundreds.
‘One of the ‘yes’ guys was putting in a couple of ‘don’t knows’, I guess to make it look like his address is valid,’ he said.
During the course of the poll, Mr. Hollyman periodically deleted duplicate votes, so the results went through some large swings during the process.
‘I think at the end of the poll we got fairly accurate results,’ he said. ‘We just couldn’t guarantee them at any particular point during the poll.’
Mr. Hollyman conceded that some people could have voted more than once. A duplicate vote from the same IP address cast three hours or more after the first was not deleted.
The ‘no’ vote was buoyed by an international e-mail effort initiated by local activist Billy Adam.
During the first week of the poll, before the international efforts and the ballot box stuffing attempts, results were still running nearly three to one against the captive dolphin facilities with more than 300 votes cast.
The poll received more than a thousand comments from respondents, the vast majority from those opposed to captive dolphin facilities:
– ‘Captivity is a death sentence for dolphins. I am from Edmonton, Canada, home of the Edmonton Mall. It had four dolphins that all died young. All five calves born there died at birth, as well. Keeping dolphins in captivity is done by greedy and cruel people.’
– ‘Cayman is not spelled D-I-S-N-E-Y W-O-R-L-D. Cayman’s waters are filled with so much marine life, not held captive, that anyone can see whether they are over or under water. I believe in wildlife management. I hunt. I fish. But to hold dolphins captive just so tourists can see them is wrong.’
– ‘Dolphins are complex beings with strong social ties. Removing them from their family unit is extremely cruel and traumatic. Captive dolphins live very short, tragic lives. One fleeting moment of seeing a dolphin that is only a shadow of what it would be in the wild does not justify this cruelty.’
– ‘Sea mammals in captivity are like innocent humans locked in a closet. No difference. Let the dolphins amaze us with their behaviour in their natural environment – the great big blue ocean.’
– ‘Surely the human species has grown beyond the need for live animal shows to amuse them. Dancing bears, captive dolphins… these belong in the dark ages.’
– ‘We should have a captive politician facility instead. That should attract the tourists!’
– ‘Any slave trade should be abolished, under whatever guise it masquerades.’
– ‘With the wonderful diving and snorkling available in the Cayman Islands, there is no reason to have a captive dolphin facility. It really serves no purpose to the public and would only be there as financial boon to whoever owns and operates it.’
– ‘All of the staff at Ragazzi Restaurant is against the dolphin project – 33 staff members in all.’
– ‘Dolphins are intelligent creatures, not toys for tourists. Find an inanimate object to exploit. Do not torture living creatures for a buck.’
– ‘I am not a resident, but have visited 10+ times. While no doubt a short term economic draw, I think the natural beauty of the people, the beaches and the reefs should remain the focus. Captive dolphins are, in a phrase, rank commercialism, and no something the Cayman Islands should aspire to.’
Several respondents quoted others in their comments.
– ‘Animals exist for their own reasons. They are no more made for man than blacks were made for whites or women for men.’ – Alice Walker.
– ‘Remember what Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by how their animals are treated’.’
– ‘The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs not matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creatures.’ – Albert Schweitzer.
– ‘Absolute cruelty to these beautiful creatures in the name of money. God’s word – ‘Release the captives’.’
There were many comments that suggested a dolphin facility could have negative impacts on Cayman’s tourism.
– ‘At this crucial time for tourism when we are trying to rebuild our delicate industry, there is only marginal benefit if any at all by partaking in this attraction/detraction.’
– ‘Cayman’s tourism industry is at an all-time crisis and I feel to introduce a dolphin facility would be the final nail in coffin.’
– ‘For a country that has built its tourist business and reputation on the open water surrounding it to even consider a captive dolphin facility is faulty logic.’
– ‘I truly believe that due to the cruelty this would present to the individual animals being held penned, and the generally widespread public awareness among the educated tourists, this would be harmful to our international profile as a destination.’
‘Aside from the dolphins, it could be disastrous for the tourism industry – what if a boycott of Cayman was instigated as a result?’
Several dozen respondents indicated they would indeed stop coming to Cayman if it opened a captive dolphin facility.
– ‘If you build it, I won’t come – to the island anymore.’
– ‘I will never visit the island ever again if this happens, and will make sure none of my businesses visit either.’
– ‘I’m disgusted by this idea. Rest assured, I will never visit the Caymans again if a captive dolphin facility is introduced.’
– ‘Keeping dolphins captive for human entertainment is deplorable. Do not sully you country’s reputation with this horror. I will never visit on vacation again and will encourage all my acquaintances – all divers – to boycott the Caymans.’
Some respondents were in favour of the captive dolphin facility.
– ‘As a 25-year visitor to the beautiful Cayman Islands, I feel that a captive dolphin facility would benefit the island and the dolphin population worldwide.’
– ‘Caymanians travel to the USA and pay to see dolphin shows and then we do not want to have captive dolphins here. Why not?’
– ‘I have heard many tourists complain Cayman does not offer enough tourist attractions and this will be a popular attraction the entire family can enjoy. Exactly our target market.’
– ‘I, as a one-time visitor to the Caymans, would love to see dolphins, when I get back down. The Caymans offer such a unique experience to us mainlanders and learning about and from dolphins as well as rays and eels would add to much more.’
– ‘I appreciate that this is an emotionally charged issue, but I think a dolphin facility would be wonderful. Similar to the turtle farm, it would give visitors an appreciation of the wonderful creatures. Some of my kids’ best memories are swimming with the dolphins in Florida.’
– ‘If it follows the platform of the Dolphin Research Centre in Grassy Key, Florida, then I support it, as they have wonderful programs and non-invasive studies, and it has provided a great learning tool for all – especially kids.’
– ‘It’s no different from having a zoo. It will attract tourists.’
– ‘Turtles, cats dogs, parrots, iguanas… why not dolphins?’
Several respondents who answered ‘don’t know’ had specific concerns..
– ‘If the dolphins can be obtained from captive breeding, yes. If not, I hesitate to take on from the wild unless it has been injured and could not survive in the wild again. It’s a fantastic experience for people, but I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do.’
– ‘Yes, only if facility saves injured, sick or orphaned dolphins for rehabilitation and release into the wild, with a secondary purpose to educate tourists on protection and conservation No, if it is to be like a zoo.’
– ‘Would like more information.’
One respondent found fault with the poll question.
‘The question is worded in such a way as to get a negative response. The terms ‘captive’ and ‘tourist attraction’ are meant to get a ‘no’ answer,’