Yorkshireman Wins PETA Award For Inventing Swimming-With-Dolphins Simulator

For Immediate Release:
7 July 2011

Sandra Smiley 0207 357 9229, ext 229; [email protected]

Preston, East Yorkshire – For inventing an animal-friendly substitute for swimming with dolphins, Preston resident Paul Obernay of Benthic Pelagic Solutions has received a Proggy Award from PETA UK. PETA’s Proggy Awards (“Proggy” is for “progress”) recognise animal-friendly achievements in commerce and culture.

The device, called the Dolphin Dome, uses video screens and the sounds of the sea to recreate the sensation of being in the ocean with dolphins. Interacting with the aquatic mammals is claimed to have a beneficial effect for people with autism and cerebral palsy, and Obernay’s invention seeks to offer a therapy that does not involve cruelty to animals.

“Dolphins are sensitive and intelligent animals who can become bored, stressed or injured in captivity, and they can pose a very real danger to patients”, says PETA spokesperson Sandra Smiley. “The Dolphin Dome is a significant advance for science and animal welfare, allowing disabled people to experience these majestic animals without any being harmed.”

Obernay said he was motivated to build the £100,000 prototype by his belief that dolphins should not be kept in captivity. The unit, which is currently on trial at a hospital, is an enclosed dome containing video screens with images of dolphins. The patient lies down, and coloured lights and dolphin calls are played.

In the wild, dolphins swim together in family pods up to 100 miles a day, but in captivity, their ocean worlds are reduced to small, barren tanks. Most captive dolphins live to only half the age of their wild brothers and sisters. Scientists at Emory University in the US performed brain scans on dolphin species and found that the cerebral cortex and the neocortex of bottlenose dolphins were so large that dolphins’ cognitive capacity is second only to humans.