They may feel, think, and smile just like us. But it doesn't mean they're happy.
The more I learn, the more I appreciate how amazing these animals are.
Let's get the sad part out of the way first.
SeaWorld keeps a lot of dolphins in captivity. And then it uses them to make money — er, I mean, entertain and "educate" guests.
Listen, I get why a whole bunch of us have been to SeaWorld. I'm looking at the picture. It's cool. But while this may *seem* like a fun show to watch — jumping dolphins! trainers! exciting music! — it's probably not a super fun show for the dolphins.
And more importantly, it's not a fun life.
SeaWorld receives its fair share of criticism about the conditions under which the dolphins and other marine animals live. But even if their conditions aren't that bad, we still shouldn't allow dolphins to be held in captivity. Why? Because dolphins are very special and unique creatures.
They have been studied for years to observe how similar to humans they really are. And in one particularly fun study, the results were telling.
Some scientists set out to prove that dolphins were *actually* intelligent using ... bubbles.
In this case, the experiment was pretty simple. Scientists created a bubble machine and put it underwater to see how the dolphins would react to it. They were scared of the bubbles at first...
(Side note, I love the way dolphins appear to smile.)
Finally, they got excited to play with their new toy.
They flipped bubbles with their tails. They swam through the circles. They even used their voices to change the shape of the bubbles!
They played for HOURS, creating new ways to play. They even taught each other how to interact with the machine.
They are sorta like humans that way.
The scientists found that they don't play for functional reasons (like hunting for food). They do it because playing is fun and it helps them learn. They played with bubbles the same way kids play with Legos.
It turns out, their emotional capacity is like ours.
And that's the important part. Even though we can't quantify their intelligence, we can prove that they have similar capacities to us.