"We wrote over 300 carriers, and have been waging an ongoing campaign to encourage airlines to commit to not carrying dolphins acquired from the wild," WDC's Courtney Vail said. "Our more recent airline letters and outreach commenced in earnest in January 2013, but our campaigns go back much further, to the late 1990s." In a piece written last April for The Dodo, Vail described the damage that transport can inflict on marine mammals. "Scientific data reveal that the stress of transfer and of adapting to a new captive environment can pose a serious risk to their health and welfare," she wrote. "Unnecessary handling and transport produce a demonstrable change in stress hormone levels ... It is well established that chronic stress can lead to immunosuppression and susceptibility to disease."
Activists have scored significant victories on this front, but there is still a ways to go. According to the captive-cetacean website Ceta-Base, last year alone, 274 live cetaceans were transferred or transported internationally to places like China, Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey and the United States. Among the worst offenders, activists say, are Air China, ULS, Korean Air and FedEx. "Airlines are low hanging fruit, and have a good deal of public exposure," Vail said. "So the more pressure the better." Activists vow to keep up the fight until there's only one reason for dolphins to be sent 30,000 feet into the air - rescue and rehabilitation.