Monday, June 20, 2011

Please Free The Dolphins

Source: Acres

Controversies at the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) do not just stop at their casino.

When RWS was opened in Jan 2010, it promised a slew of attractions to be rolled out in stages. Later this year, the Marine Life Park will add another major attraction to RWS. However, before anyone gets to peep into what it has to offer, the upcoming attraction has sparked much controversy, especially amongst the wildlife conservationists.

Source: Acres

In 2008, RWS bought 27 Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins from the Solomon Islands and they were kept in a holding area in Langkawi, Malaysia. In Oct 2010, two of them had died after they were infected by the melioidosis bacteria. RWS later moved the remaining animals to the Ocean Adventure park in Subic Bay, Philippines.

The death of the two dolphins has again roused much controversy over RWS' plan. Ironically, one of the opposing voices came from the dolphin trader, Mr Chris Porter, who sold these mammals to RWS. Mr Porter has stepped out to urge RWS to rethink their intention to use the dolphins as a tourist attraction. (see article)

In May this year, the animal welfare group, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) launched a campaign named "Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins". ACRES hopes to raise public awareness on the matter and urges RWS to free the mammals.

ACRES has said in the campaign website...
"25 bottlenose dolphins that once roamed free and wild in the vast Pacific Ocean, are now facing a life of captivity, boredom, stress, claustrophobia, frustration and slow death, thanks to Resorts World, which plans to keep them in its spa at Sentosa, Singapore. Two of their family have already died during the ordeal. Please help save these remaining animals."

Source: Wikipedia: The Cove

Mr Ric O'Barry, the maker of the Academy Award winning movie, The Cove, wrote to RWS and the Singapore Tourism Board, calling RWS to do the same. (see letter)

Many concerned individuals also wrote to RWS on the controversy. In its response, RWS maintained their stand that the dolphins "have a special role in the area of conservation" and will proceed with its plan to have a dolphin exhibition in its oceanarium. (See reply from RWS and response from ACRES)

Source: SPCA

At the onset of its development, RWS has been under constant pressure from animal activists to reconsider its marine life exhibition. After drawing flak from animal welfare groups, it scrapped plans to exhibit whale sharks in 2009. Will RWS do the same this time with the dolphins?

The line between commercialization and conservation has always been fine. On the surface, it is hard to say if zoos, aquariums and oceanarium are really after tourism dollars or are truly committed to animal conservation.

The controversy over RWS Marine Life Park is not new and it is unlikely to end here. While I am certainly not sitting on the fence, I can see the needs for RWS to answer to its shareholders. However, RWS has to do more to convince me that it is keen in conservation.

Which side of the fence can I find you?

You might also want to read

The Cove: The Killing Must Stop

A Tank As Big As The Ocean? (RWS: Whale Shark)

Sharks: Prey or Predator?

An Unnatural Fate (White Tiger)

Don't Buy Rabbits in the Year of the Rabbit

Picture Blog #13 : Extinction is Forever (Singapore Zoo)

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