The World Cetacean Alliance welcomes Virgin Holidays’ decision today to end its involvement with animal attractions that keep cetaceans in captivity for entertainment. The announcement, which follows on from last month’s decision by the Canadian Government to ban dolphinariums nationwide, sends a clear message that the future for tourism with these intelligent mammals is responsibly and in the wild.
Thankfully that’s exactly where Virgin Holidays is heading, with the company already investing in a new portfolio of responsible wild whale and dolphin watching experiences. To achieve this, Virgin Holidays and the World Cetacean Alliance have agreed a programme of training and assessment to ensure that Virgin customers can enjoy tours that put the animals first, support conservation, and provide a high quality educational experience. This is the latest in a series of announcements that puts the company in a ground-breaking position – only offering wild whale and dolphin watching experiences, and supporting the development of sanctuaries as places to retire captive dolphins.
Said WCA CEO Dylan Walker: “History will show that this was absolutely the right decision by Virgin Holidays. Whales and dolphins are complex and intelligent animals whose needs can only be met in the wild. To understand them involves seeing them in their ocean home, which is why we are extremely pleased that Virgin Holidays is committed to investing and supporting responsible wild whale and dolphin excursions moving forward.
“We know that Virgin Holidays’ decision has been preceded by years of work and consultation and the company has shown tremendous leadership, involving key stakeholders in an extensive consultation process, and have analysed the latest scientific evidence. At the World Cetacean Alliance, we have been one of the many voices in that process. Now, we are delighted to be investing in more exciting responsible wild whale and dolphin watching experiences for Virgin Holidays customers. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the company on some fantastic wild animal experiences that customers can trust in and enjoy.”
Virgin Holidays has committed to a two-year partnership with the World Cetacean Alliance that will roll out a Responsible Whale Watching Certification programme, which was agreed with all WCA whale and dolphin watching operators at the World Whale Conference in South Africa in 2017. Virgin Holidays suppliers will be encouraged to enhance the customer experience by providing information about the marine environment, while keeping a respectful distance from the animals. They will also be given the opportunity to get involved in research projects to track the health and distribution of cetacean populations.
Said Joe Thompson, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays: “The World Cetacean Alliance has been an excellent partner over the past five years. With their in-depth, expert knowledge about whales and dolphins, coupled with their great network and understanding of the tourism business, they have been able to support us with invaluable advice on our journey to change the way tourists interact with whales and dolphins. We are looking forward to continue working with the World Cetacean Alliance team to get all of Virgin Holidays’ whale and dolphin watching excursions certified to the WCA standard and ensure tourists have the most enriching experience seeing whales and dolphins in the wild.”
Virgin Holidays has also invested US$100,000 with the non-profit, National Aquarium in Baltimore to support the creation of North America’s first dolphin sanctuary and the move of its six captive dolphins (Jade, Spirit, Bayley, Chesapeake, Foster and Beau) from their indoor dolphinarium to a more natural outdoor environment. The sanctuary will provide the dolphins with a much bigger living space and be located near the coast. It will give the animals the chance to experience a far more natural habitat with exposure to ocean tides, temperature variations, and other ocean life such as fish, crabs and seaweed.
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