Cruise Industry: A Menace to Wildlife?

Big Red - Harvest Caye - NCLThis weekend, a reader of this blog sent me an article from the San Pedro Sun regarding NCL's exploitation of rare macaws in its development in Belize at Harvest Caye.

Scarlet Macaws

NCL reportedly obtained numerous birds (toucans and other macaws) and animals and reptiles from the Belize government from the wild and/or rescue and rehabilitation centers for display in cages for the benefit of cruise visitors. 

The article addressed the plight of a scarlet macaw, which is one of the most poached birds in Belize, which was rescued by the Belize Bird Rescue (BBR), a non-profit organization in Belize. The male bird, which was named "Big Red," was rescued and underwent rehabilitation for wild release; however, several weeks ago the bird reportedly was given to Harvest Caye to entertain cruise tourists, much to the outrage of local Belizeans. Critics of NCL's boondoggle in Belize point out that NCL did not even mention a captive animal facility in the cruise line environmental impact assessment or obtain permission to possess rare birds in its environmental clearance process.  NCL apparently created its own so-called "conservation NGO" but it is not working with any of the existing NGO's in Belize.

The article about NCL's conduct, although outrageous, is just one of many examples of the abuse of birds and animals at cruise line private resorts and excursions throughout the world.

Swim-With-The-Dolphins

Dolphin rescue groups have repeatedly protested against ”swim-with-the-dolphins" excursions, like the notorious Blackbeard's Cay in the Bahamas, which have become a major feature of the cruise experience. Carnival and Royal Caribbean advertise them as “once in a lifetime experiences." The trade of dolphins in the Caribbean is big business. There are many dozens of swim-with-the-dolphins excursions sold by cruise lines in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. The Dolphin Project writes about dolphins "confined in tiny, chlorinated tanks, where they are subject to relentless sun exposure (often resulting in sunburn), noise pollution, continuous human interaction and water toxins. Some live in polluted harbor waters, in hastily constructed holding pens, “conveniently” close to cruise ship ports for quick, tourist access." 

Cayman Island Turtle FarmCayman Islands Turtles

An animal protection group explains that in their natural ocean habitats, green sea turtles can dive to depths over 400 feet and can swim several thousands of miles a year. But held in captivity in what was originally called the Cayman Turtle Farm, subsequently re-branded as the friendlier-sounding Cayman Turtle Centre, the turtles are kept in small, crowded holding pens and are removed only for entertainment purposes to be mishandled by tourists and used for props in selfie-photos. You can also eat the turtles which are bred at the tourist facility. More than 200,000 people visit the tourist-turtle farm each year; approximately three quarters are cruise passengers.

Surrey Horses in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean

Horse tours are a popular tourist attraction for cruise visitors. Cruise lines sell dozens of excursions to tour the various port towns via horse drawn carriages. In many destinations, the horses are poorly fed Carriage Horses - Bahamasand abused. They suffer from heat exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, traffic fumes, noise pollution, stress, and injuries. The situation in Nassau is particularly bad; a malnourished horse dropped dead on Bay Street in downtown Nassau only to be tied by the legs and dragged down the street by a pickup truck. Exploiting horses is a dreadful way to spend a vacation cruise.

The cruise industry supports hundreds of local ports and has great influence over activities by the local communities. For example, if the cruise line would stop doing business with the tour operators who abuse horses and do business only with reputable bus and van operators, the abuse would stop virtually overnight.

Similarly, if the cruise industry would stop calling at port countries like the Faroe Islands which slaughter pilot whales, there would be considerable pressure to end the barbaric sport of killing sentient mammals, as we have urged for years.  

There are literally literally thousands of cruise excursions offered by each of the major cruise lines Faroe Islands Slaughter Whaleswhich take the majority of the revenue from the excursion. There's little consideration given by the cruise lines to anything except how much money the cruise lines can collect. I tend to view the problem as starting at the top, with the greedy cruise executives looking to collect every nickle and dime possible; but thoughtless cruise passengers are part of the problem too. One person commenting on NCL's exploitation of macaws in Belize posted this comment:

"Par for the course for people who encourage thousands of passengers to swim with captive dolphins, ride tortured elephants, camels and the like. However the passengers are equally to blame."     

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Photo credits: 

Big Red - San Pedro Sun

Dolphin - Delfines En Libertad, Report on captive dolphins in Mexico.

Turtles -  World Animal Protection.

Horses - Stop Brutal Abuse and Suffering of Surrey Horses in the Bahamas.

Pilot Whales - Green Travel Life.