I don't actually want to do this, but I'm writing a story and I'd like it to be scientifically accurate. A marine biologist will be doing the heist, so any advanced and cool knowledge is welcome.


closed as off-topic by Renan, elemtilas, JBH, StephenG, Mołot Oct 2 '18 at 7:38

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    $\begingroup$ No marine biologist would put a dolphin on the path for sure death. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Oct 1 '18 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ Any particular place you plan on stealing it from? I'm sure an inland zoo would have more logistics than a fenced-off ocean bay. $\endgroup$ – Giter Oct 1 '18 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ Orpheus, you need to watch Free Willy. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 1 '18 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ You are basically asking if someone would tell you in an answer that's maybe 1000 words if it's really long what you learn in years of studying and working close with animals. Please realize that this is impossible. Write about stuff you know. This is similar to asking: i want a character to speak Russian. How do I do that? Well, learn Russian for a couple of years. But at the very least you should demonstrate that you did some research $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 1 '18 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ Hellow Orpheus. Your question has been flagged for a number of issues. Let me help. (a) Real-world questions are welcome here, but they're expected to be in the context of developing a fictional world - not a specific story. Storybuilding is not what we do. (b) At all SE sites you are expected to have done research and are asking us about aspects of that research you don't understand (this is, after all, a Q&A site, not a discussion forum). Your question is expected to reflect this, but does not. (c) The only way to answer any question is to have enough detail. (*continued*) $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 2 '18 at 0:35

You Will Probably Kill It

The task of moving a dolphin safeley requires a dedicated team of highly trained and educated specialists working 24/7 with extremeley expensive specialized equipment. If your amatuer attempt doesnt outright kill it then it will die in the ocean since modern day dolphins in captivity were not captured from the wild, but bred, born, and raised in captivity. They not only have never had to survive outside of a perfectly controlled environment with regular feedings, thier parents, grandparents, and great grandparents didnt either. Dolphins are social animals that must be taught survival behaviors from fellow pod members. They have not developed functional survival skills. In addition, one of the worst traits for survival in the wild has been trained into them. They haven't learned to steer clear of predators, or even what predators are.

Removing them from captivity will kill them. Either swiftly during the botched moving attempt, slowly starving to death in the ocean, or violently at the hands of predators.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I think I'll have my biologist do something else! $\endgroup$ – Orpheus1844 Oct 1 '18 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ Just curious. Has anyone actually tried it? Dolphins are extremely intelligent animals, and I'd be surprised if this didn't allow them at least a chance of surviving against the odds. Humans have often survived unaded in environments and situations which logically should have killed them. Dolphins may be capable of doing the same. $\endgroup$ – user1751825 Oct 1 '18 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ The ability to identify a predator is likely to be instinctive to some extent. $\endgroup$ – user1751825 Oct 1 '18 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ The ability to identify a predator also doesn't count for much when it's a lone social animal that typically relies on a group response to predators to survive. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Oct 1 '18 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @user1751825 Most of dolphins brain mass is dedicated to keeping the rest of the brain warm. The idea of dolphin exceptionalism is slowly eroding as more rigor is applied to repeating and interpreting the old experiments. For example, jumping spiders are able to replicate dolphins ability to react to television screens. Sadly, so far, cetaceans raised in captivity and released into the wild have not been successfully weaned of their dependency on humans. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Oct 2 '18 at 2:31

Empty the tanks

Let’s just say your plan is to go to Sea World, open a gate and let the dolphin swim to freedom. It’s an admirable plan and if you ended the story right here it would have a happy ending.

In reality, it’s going to die.

Whether it was born in captivity or captured in Taiji, Japan, you will need to train the dolphin to survive. Captive dolphins never learned how to hunt. In the open ocean, they work as a team with their pod to capture fish. When captured, the trainers in Taiji break dolphins of their independence to only take food from trainers.

You can’t have the dolphin wander into the nearest pod and have the pod adopt it like a long lost brother. They don’t adopt orphans and would likely kill your freed dolphin. So you’d have to track down its home pod and return it to its family. But nobody tracks which pod a dolphin came when it was captured, so it’s incredibly hard to integrate one back to where it belongs. Even if you knew the geographic location of the pod, they can be hard to locate even if you were only a mile away.

If you could train it to fish, the question becomes does it still have teeth to capture fish? Dolphins and whales chew on the sides of the captivity tanks and wear them down. This is an ongoing problem with captive cetaceans.

When people talk about freeing whales and dolphins, so many of us want to see it happen, but realistically best hope is to move them to a cove where full time assistants will feed and care for them, but finally they would be out of the tanks. Hopefully once dolphins are freed, they surprise us and are able to care for themselves, but that's most likely fantasy. Your heart is in the right place for this story, but sometimes reality does not offer a sparkling future.

Good luck in emptying the tanks.

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    $\begingroup$ "They don’t adopt strays and would likely kill it." Dolphins, the bottlenose specially, are known for their vicioud gang rapes. The lonely, rescued dolphin would probably suffer a fate that would traumatize his rescuer forever. Only after that thebpod would kill him. $\endgroup$ – Renan Oct 1 '18 at 23:09

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