Dolphin catcher-turned-activist nets audience of 500

Esther Ng Today Online 5 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE - About 500 people attended animal welfare group ACRES' first public dialogue session with former dolphin catcher-turned-activist Ric O'Barry at Grand Copthorne Waterfront last night.

The mainly youthful crowd, comprising teachers, students and young adult professionals and a few Caucasians, gave Mr O'Barry, who starred in the Academy Award-winning documentary film The Cove, a standing ovation. They also listened intently to the presentation by Animal Concerns Research & Education Society's (ACRES) executive director Louis Ng.

But the public debate was a one-sided affair with nary a soul speaking up in support of the captivity and display of dolphins in marine life parks.

Student Felicia Koh said she had written letters to the Government asking that Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) not put the dolphins on display. Ms Koh pointed out that the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, which does not have dolphins, is "lovely" and proof that an attraction could be successful without dolphins that have been caught in the wild.

When a participant asked whether dolphins could be happy in captivity, Mr O'Barry said: "You're dealing with an optical illusion - the dolphin is smiling - which is nature's greatest deception, unless you hit them with a baseball bat, you wouldn't see the abuse."

Designer Nicholas Lim, 25, asked whether ACRES or Mr O'Barry would have any objections if RWS used dolphins bred in captivity.

Mr O'Barry said: "There is no reason why dolphins should be bred in captivity. It's a form of bad education."

Captive dolphins won't die when freed: Activist
Sophie Hong my paper AsiaOne 5 Oct 11;

Dolphins in captivity can still survive in the wild when they are released, said prominent dolphin activist Richard O'Barry yesterday in Singapore.

The American, who wrote in to Resorts World Sentosa a few months ago to free the 25 bottlenose dolphins it plans to showcase at its Marine Life Park, was responding to comments by the integrated resort (IR) in a Straits Times report yesterday.

On the issue of the dolphins, the Sentosa IR had said that the track record for reintroducing captured dolphins into the wild "is patchy at best" and that "we will be gravely irresponsible to even consider that".

But Mr O'Barry said yesterday: "Resorts World Sentosa said (they) can't release dolphins into the wild, but we did so in Georgia. Those dolphins had spent about seven years in captivity."

He was speaking to over 500 people at a dialogue organised by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

Mr O'Barry, a marine-mammal specialist, was featured in 2009's Academy Award-winning documentary on Japan's dolphin-hunting activities, The Cove.

He said yesterday that he did not have data on how many dolphins in captivity have been successfully released back into the wild, but added that "out of all the dolphins I have released so far, there were only two that failed". He has released over 25 dolphins.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Marine Life Park reiterated its stance and said that Mr O'Barry "is fully aware" of the track record for releasing captured dolphins.

"Mr O'Barry has no jurisdiction in Singapore. We believe that our dolphins will play a significant and meaningful role for marine conservation," he said, adding that dolphins in the wild or captivity can provide marine experts with "immense knowledge and experience".

The spokesman added that "we respect divergent views" and "will always welcome Acres to work with us on conservation programmes".