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Staying in Las Vegas

Living in Captivity


A friend of mine’s husband took pictures of dolphins and a white tiger residing at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

When I scan the pictures the dolphins look happy. A wild dolphin once told me, “There are no mean dolphins.” To me, dolphins seem to posses a never-changing smiling face, though at closer inspection the Mirage dolphins look a little tired and sad in the eye.

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Courtesy Photo

The white tiger is lying closely behind a double chain-link fence looking at the passersby. In his picture the tiger looks stoic, calmly curious, and young.

Of course I am curious about what the animals at the Mirage have to say about their lives; I am searching for a happy exotic animal in captivity. So I here I talk to one dolphin and one white tiger.

Dolphin: “I was taken when I was very young from waters that are much colder than this. I am a luckier dolphin because I have some of my pod here with me. It helps when someone else shares your story. I often dream of where I came from.

“I would like to eat the fish that I ate in the wild. It seems so different here. The people are very kind to me and I have made friends with them. They are not the ones that captured the others and me so it is easier to be accepting of them. They teach me things that make my mind feel stimulated and smart but our language is so different.

Click to enlarge photo

Courtesy Photo

“Dolphins are much more clever than people. We find any way to love and be kind to one another. People have petty disagreements and often fight for things that are not in their best interest. They want a hierarchy where they will not be at their best. Dolphins are different. We recognize our strengths and our weakness and know where our powers would be best in the pod.

“We struggle a bit because some of the dolphins here were born on different parts of the world. So we have different swimming systems, communication, and organizational patterns. Sometimes we get in each other’s way. But we understand that our natural rhythms are just different. If I could, I would go back into the wild in an instant. I wouldn’t mind forgetting the games humans have taught me. I wouldn’t mind at all.”

White Tiger: “I have a human friend who is great and powerful in ways I do not know how to be. I admire him. I admire his hands and the way he reads people. I admire his skill in being able to tame me. I know that I did not have the teachings of tigers older than me. I feel there is a skill level and consciousness that I do not posses. I have a longing for those teachings.

“I feel like I am only half me or I am an empty being. I am part human now in my ways and that feels wrong. Humans do not smell, hear, or touch the earth like I do. My world is small and I know where I come from because it is written in the minds of people who visit me. I wish I could go to that place and feel like a tiger. I wish I were born elsewhere. I wish my soul felt more tiger than human. I wish I did not have to constantly hold back my instincts. I wish I had more joy in natural toys rather than the toys they provide. Human survival is so different than tiger survival. Your species is exhausting to be around. I wish I could be free.”

My 16-year-old domestic shorthaired cat came to me meowing as I read over the piece. He said, “Mom, that tiger asked me if I mind living with people. Does he hunt mice?” I told Joey that the tiger would hunt an animal closer to the size of a deer. Joey said, “I told him I am domestic but I know a little how he feels. We used to live in the country and now we live in town. I like the country better. I told him I have heard of cats that run away and find another person that can fulfill their needs. Maybe he should run away.” I asked Joey what the tiger responded and he said, “The tiger said he cannot run away because he will get electrocuted by something that will hurt his body and his brain.”

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