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Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins: ACRES’ response to Resorts World Sentosa

We recently published the article, “ACRES needs your help to “Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins”  To recap, Resorts World Sentosa(RWS) is Singapore’s leading casino operator, and is importing 25 bottlenose dolphins captured in the wild from Solomon Islands. Two additional dolphins had died during training in the Philippines.  ACRES is a Singapore based NGO which campaigns for animal rights, and have launched the “Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins” initiative to urge RWS to stop the import of these dolphins.

Please read the original article here. The official reply given by Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) to emails and letters from the public is published in bold below. ACRES have given their counterarguments in italics to the statements made by RWS.  Please continue to support the campaign by sharing this message, joining the Facebook page, and by writing to RWS

From ACRES:

Those of you who have written to RWS would have received their standard reply. Please find attached below our response to RWS’ standard reply. RWS’ statements are in bold.

Greetings from Resorts World™ Sentosa.

We note your feedback. There will also be differing views on dolphins in facilities, but please let us explain why we believe that our animals have an important role to play and that they will have a good quality of life in our facility.

ACRES is not against the keeping of animals in captivity in-principle, but we must focus on keeping animals that can cope with captivity. ACRES and the over 7,400 people who have joined us (in less than a fortnight) 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 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.

Over 150 millions of Guests pass through aquaria and zoo facilities in the United States alone each year. Well run facilities providing strong conservation takeaways have inspired many to take on the championing of marine mammal conservation. Reports and testimonials have shown that some have even gone on to illustrious careers in animal care and veterinary science. Television documentaries play a great role in advancing the conservation cause, but nothing beats getting up close with the animals, learning about their behavior, care and need for conservation of their species first-hand from their caregivers. The Marine Life Park will strive to continue with this conservation mission.

Since RWS is using the United States as an example, should it not also follow the progressive example set by 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 educational role to play, but they 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?

Bottlenose dolphins can thrive in facilities. It has been documented that dolphins in marine parks have lived well over 40 years old, twice the average life span of dolphins in the wild. Life in the wild is not as carefree as you think. Dolphins fight for survival from predators, fishing boats, and pollution. Dolphins have also been bred successfully in facilities, an important measure of successful adaption of dolphins to human care. Today, many dolphins have been bred in facilities, providing us valuable insights and knowledge into the propagation of this species.

If the above was true, why didn’t RWS acquire their dolphins from captive sources instead of buying 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.

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

Should we still trust RWS now that we know 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).

We also like to share that Marine parks provide an important source of funding and expertise for marine mammal science. Today, marine parks and aquaria around the world have strong and frequent links to exchange scientific knowledge and expertise. Many of these parks have established laboratories, veterinary care and husbandry practices. These parks have also conducted many research projects. Marine parks are able to provide long-term, structured and committed efforts to advancing marine mammal science. The Marine Life Park is committed to these research programmes, which range from field research, water quality studies to marine mammal reproduction and physiology, as well as rescue rehabilitation.

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 RWS is truly committed to marine conservation, should it not focus on protecting wild dolphins?

We could go on and on about why we believe our animals have a special role in the area of conservation. We are 100-percent committed to provide them the best care. We are starting exciting educational and conservation projects, and will definitely be sharing information on those projects in the coming months.

Thank you for taking the time in writing to us.

Warmest Regards,
SaravananSinniah
Guest Correspondence Team
Resorts World™ Sentosa

ACRES would welcome more reassuring and concrete explanations from RWS to justify why they are not responding to the public’s call for them to release the wild-caught dolphins.

To get involved:

Further links you may be interested in:

Campaign video for you to share:

Video link here

Letter from Richard O’ Barry to Resorts World Sentosa on dolphins

The Straits Times: Free the Dolphins (Ric O Barry’s plea – full feature on The Sunday Times)


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Posted by on Jun 8 2011. Filed under Water/Marine Life, Wildlife. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins: ACRES’ response to Resorts World Sentosa”

  1. I support saving the dolphins. I hope you do, too.

  2. Angela Van Moorsel

    I am happy to see dolphins in the wild and pledge not to visit any place that is connected with the capture or captivty of dolphins for entertainment of people. If everyone does this no one would keep them as it is all about the money.
    Resorts World Sentosa do the right thing and everyone don’t go there till they do!

  3. Save the dolphins and release them. We can learn from the documentaries filmed in the wild. Don’t do it in the name of education, research, blah blah blah.. Shameful way to make money indeed. I will BOYCOTT Resort World Sentosa and ask everyone to do the same.

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