ACRES response to RWS statements on captive dolphins

06 Jun

(I am including this here cos i want this to reach out to more people….. please understand the cruelty that RWS is inflicting on these mammals which really actually ought to be left where they are at their best)

“RWS’ statements are in bold…

There will always be differences in views regarding captive animals in zoological organizations, but we believe that well-run facilities providing strong conservation takeaways make a tangible difference to animal conservation.

ACRES in-principle is not against the keeping of animals in captivity but we must focus on keeping animals that can cope with captivity. ACRES and over 7,000 people that have joined us in this campaign are not campaigning for the closure of the Marine Life Park. We agree that zoos have an important role to play but again, we are calling for RWS to focus on housing species which can cope with captivity and to also run an attraction that can indeed play a proper role in education and in-situ conservation.

Dolphins (and whales) are the only grouping of animals which governments have banned zoos from keeping in captivity. Progressive countries such as Chile and Costa Rica have banned the capture and display of dolphins, recognising that these animals belong in the vast open oceans.

We should also note that and learn from other country’s experiences. Mexican Senator Jorge Legorreta Ordorica (Chairman, Committee of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries) was so dismayed at the plans of RWS that he wrote to Singapore’s National Development Minister about it. Senator Jorge wrote that Mexico’s international reputation was dented as a result of its importing 28 Solomon Islands dolphins in 2003. At least 12 of the dolphins have since died.

“Mexico’s experience with this single import led to our government imposing an outright ban on importation and exportation of live cetaceans for entertainment purposes and this ban is still in place,” the Mexican senator said. He urged Singapore to consider Mexico’s experience and ‘the disturbing mortality’ of the animals when evaluating applications for the permits to import such dolphins.

In the United States alone, over 150 million guests pass through aquaria and zoo facilities each year. Reports and testimonials have shown that zoos and marine parks have inspired personalities to illustrious careers in animal care, conservation and veterinary science. While television documentaries and other media play a great role in creating awareness, deeply personal encounters with the animals – learning about their behavior, care and needs of species from their caregivers first hand – have shown great impact on fostering awareness and advancing protection of the species.

Since RWS is using the United States as an example, it should also follow the progressive example set by other facilities in the United States with regard to dolphin captures. In the late 1980s, facilities in the United States implemented a voluntary moratorium on collection of bottlenose dolphins from the wild, and this remains in place.

As mentioned above, we do agree that zoos have an important education role to play but it must walk the talk and must focus on ethical practices both in terms of animal care and animal acquisition.

In addition, the reality is: What can RWS really teach its visitors about dolphin protection? Would it not be an irony and contradiction for RWS to ask their visitors to protect dolphins when they themselves obtained 27 individual dolphins from the wild and two have now died?

Scientific data over the past decades point to the fact that bottlenose dolphins can thrive within marine parks. Dolphins in parks have lived in excess of 40 years, double the average life span of dolphins in the wild. Dolphins in the wild do not enjoy a totally carefree life; they fight for survival from predators, fishing boats, and pollution. Dolphins have also bred successfully in marine parks, an important measure of successful adaption of dolphins to human care. Today, the success of these breeding programmes provides us with valuable insight and knowledge into the propagation of this and other marine mammal species.

If the above was true, why didn’t RWS acquire their dolphins from captive sources but instead bought dolphins caught from the wild. It is true that wild dolphins do not enjoy a carefree life but they do enjoy freedom and the choice of where to go, what to eat (live fish), who to socialise with and they will not be forced to perform behaviours they don’t want to do.

Marine parks the world over provide an important source of not just funding, but expertise for marine mammal science. These facilities engage in constant exchange of knowledge and expertise. Most have established laboratories, veterinary care and husbandry practices, in addition to contributing heavily to a host of of marine mammal research and conservation projects that exist today. Established parks are an important generator of long-term, structured and sustained efforts to advance marine mammal science, which range from field research and water quality studies, to reproduction and physiology, as well as rescue rehabilitation.

The RWS Marine Life Park (MLP) has been developed along the preceding principles. It is designed to exceed international standards for animal care and welfare, and is working towards international accreditation in those areas. Dolphins die in facilities, as they do in the wild. We do not take death, or even illnesses, of our animals lightly. We were deeply saddened by the loss of two dolphins to a water and air-borne bacterial infection last year. No medical expense or effort was spared but we could not save them.

Marine parks are indeed an important source of funding and RWS should focus on funding in-situ conservation work (in the wild) instead of contributing to one of the threats dolphins face in the wild.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a leading authority on the environment and sustainable development, the threats facing the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins include live capture for oceanariums.

Furthermore, catching more dolphins might drive species such as the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin towards extinction. IUCN states that “their preference (Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins) as a captive display species makes them vulnerable to depletion from such catches.”

If dolphins can thrive in captivity, why then did 2 of RWS wild-caught dolphins die? The explanation should not just be dolphins die in the wild as well.

RWS has stated that they have “a world-class team of experienced professionals and animal experts” and it is their “mission to provide our animals with top-class care, and to treat them with respect.”

RWS has also stated that “its dolphin enclosure will ‘far exceed’ internationally recognised minimum space requirements for the animals” and that “care and well-being of the dolphins are of paramount importance”.

RWS further mentioned that bottlenose dolphins “are very adaptable to living in controlled environments”.

ACRES has consistently reminded RWS of the difficulty in keeping dolphins in captivity. Despite our appeal, RWS went ahead and purchased wild-caught dolphins. Two of the dolphins (in Langkawi), of the species which RWS had stated is “very adaptable to living in controlled environments”, have now died.

We should also remember that RWS housed the dolphins in appalling conditions in Langkawi during training. The dolphin enclosures failed to meet the European Association for Aquatic Mammals Standards for Establishments Housing Bottlenose Dolphins.

The enclosures failed in terms of: Not meeting minimum pool dimensions, poor maintenance, failure to provide shelter, excessive noise, poor water quality, not having sufficient/adhered to emergency procedures and not having a sufficient/adhered to programme of measures for illness prevention and control.

Besides the small size of the enclosures, the location of the enclosures was a major concern. The location was completely unsuitable for dolphins due to the high boat traffic (from a jetty and a private marina).”

please support this cause. RWS will get its profit even without having captive dolphins.

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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in i-Sad, i-Wish


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