To avoid the capture and captivity of many animals, entrepreneurs from New Zealand are working with American creators to develop robot dolphins that look a like their living counterparts. They could soon be coming to aquariums in China.

Several marine parks across the world are facing backlash for using animals in captivity for profit. Owners are being pressured to abandon their exhibitions with real whales and dolphins, which prompted creators to build a mechanical animal almost identical to their living counterparts.

The robotic dolphin being created can be controlled by a remote, its creators say. It can nod an answer to respond to questions, and swim happily in display tanks.

“The marine park industry has had failing revenues for over a decade due to ethical concerns and the cost of live animals, yet the public hunger to learn about and experience these animals is still as strong as ever,” Roger Holzberg, a California-based designer of the life-size robot bottlenose dolphins and a former creative director at the Walt Disney Company, told The Guardian. He is working with Walt Conti, who is responsible for making some of the film industry’s known sea creatures, Free Willy and Flipper.

“We believe that it’s time to reimagine this industry and that this approach can be more humane, and more profitable at the same time,” Holzberg added.

Each dolphin costs about NZ$40m, which also proves to be one of the creators biggest obstacle into proving to clients that robotic sea creatures will work out cheaper in the long run than the real animals.

“We have to persuade them that it is a profitable business, even more profitable than live animals,” said Li Wang, a business developer for Edge Innovation, the NZ-based company making the case for the robots. He added that the robots do not need the same expensive upkeep as the real dolphins.

Animal rights advocates would like to welcome the idea of replacing the live animals in captivity with the robots.

“In 2020, cutting-edge technology allows us to experience nature without harming it,” Elisa Allen, UK director for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a statement.

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