Dolphins at dozens of tourist attractions in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo are set to be freed.
The decision has come as the result of federal legislation banning zoos and aquariums from exhibiting and offering interactions with wild animals.
The dolphins are to be released into the bay of Campeche where a federally enforced protection area has existed since 1994.
“Many of the dolphins kept at these so-called reserves are in terrible shape, so it will be necessary to assess them individually before being able to release them,” said conservationist Rodríguez Badillo.
However, several “dolphin shows” continue to operate in Quintana Roo and elsewhere in Mexico.
“Tourists to the area should know the harm that is being done to these amazing and intelligent animals through their support of this industry,” said Lourdes Rodríguez of the conservancy organization Marea Azul.
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Like all species of cetaceans, dolphins have been demonstrated to be among the most intelligent animals on the planet, possessing cognitive abilities including long-term memory and complex language skills.
The legislation that prohibits the display of wild animals is unevenly enforced. It is common to see people selling photos with monkeys, wild birds, and reptiles at highly visible locations such as Playa del Carmen’s ferry terminal.
Dolphins can be observed in the wild across much of the Yucatán peninsula, but are most easily spotted along the area surrounding the Laguna de Terminos just off Ciudad del Carmen.
But wildlife authorities and biologists are showing concern over an increase in the number of beached dolphins found on Yucatán’s beaches including Chelem, Chuburna, and Holbox.
Environmental authorities say they will be keeping a close eye on the situation and that the public should report any marine animal beachings to 969-103-62-86 and 9992-77-21-90.