Resorts World Sentosa' dolphins are for economic greed, not conservation

Letter from Ann Marie Chua Today Online 19 Oct 11;

I beg to differ with Mr Neil Wilkinson, in his letter "We should support RWS' Marine Life Park" (Oct 18).

I do not know what surveys he had done to say that people against the captivity of wild dolphins in Resorts World Sentosa are in the minority.

Everyone I have spoken to about the captive dolphins were either ignorant of the matter or appalled. Those in the former group soon became appalled. None of us are animal activists.

There is nothing admirable about what Resorts World Sentosa is doing, either in effect or intention. If it had captured the dolphins to aid conservation efforts, people would not be up in arms.

What it is doing is for economic greed and vainglory. What it has done has already resulted in two dolphin deaths.

Animals become depressed when they are taken from their natural habitats to artificial environments and are forced to perform for people, so much so that they have to be given anti-depressant drugs.

Even if dolphins die in the wild, it is from natural causes, and there is nothing humans would have done deliberately to cause harm to these creatures, who are incredibly intelligent and fully capable of feeling physical, psychological and emotional pain.

That Singapore has the largest oceanarium, and that our government can enable such cruelty to be subjected on innocent animals, is a source of shame rather than pride to me.

This is not what I want Singapore to be put on the map for, and I will not support RWS insofar as it acts with disregard to life.

Does RWS really have world-class treatment?
Letter from Elissa Loi Shiling Today Online 20 Oct 11;

I REFER to Mr Neil Wilkinson's letter "We should support RWS' Marine Life Park" (Oct 18), in which he said that Singaporeans should be "proud that Singapore will have the world's largest oceanarium".

With the international attention the local dolphin campaign has received, any pride we might have in that accolade is undermined by how Resorts World Sentosa refuses to answer questions posed by local animal welfare groups and the public.

Besides, it is still possible for Singapore to have the world's largest oceanarium sans dolphins.

Mr Wilkinson argued that "no one can say what dolphins prefer" and concluded that dolphins would prefer to enjoy the same creature comforts that Singaporeans do. But dolphins are not humans, let alone Singaporeans.

The analogy should be between being cooped up in an artificial space where every aspect of life is decided for you, after being captured, and coming and going as you please in the environment you were born in, to enjoy fully what nature has designed for you.

A wild animal's greatest privilege is freedom. Who are we to take it away from them?

To conclude, I would ask if RWS can detail the capture of the 27 dolphins. How was it in line with conservation laws?

Was there no force or trauma dealt to the dolphins in the process of locating them, separating them from their pods and removing them from the ocean, that is, does RWS' boast of world-class treatment hold?

Swim at RWS or in the ocean?
Letter from Christina Lee Jiawei Campaigns Officer, Animal Concerns Research & Education Society
Today Online 21 Oct 11;

I REFER to the letter "We should support RWS' Marine Life Park" (Oct 18), whose main theme was about "choice" and which suggested that, if given a choice, Singaporeans would choose a small but safe flat instead of a large country estate.

The reality for the Resorts World Sentosa dolphins is that they had no choice. They were removed from their natural habitat and will be confined against their will.

They have lost control over their lives, from what and when they eat to whom they socialise with and where.

The Animal Concerns Research & Education Society doubts that any Singaporean would want the lives these dolphins are now living.

Captive dolphins, in general, are not "choosing" to interact with humans during contact sessions or to perform certain behaviours on demand but instead are often doing so to get fed.

Yes, they could choose to go hungry, but most animals will avoid hunger at all costs, and a hungry dolphin will do just about anything for a fish, even a dead, frozen one.

While it is true that wild dolphins may not enjoy a carefree life, they do enjoy freedom and choice.

With regard to conservation, we agree it is vital, but we cannot agree that catching dolphins from the wild is supporting these efforts.

According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the threats facing Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (the species purchased by RWS) include live capture for oceanariums.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) does allow the capture of dolphins from the wild.

However, according to the IUCN, catching more dolphins such as the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, which is preferred as a captive, display species, "makes them vulnerable to depletion from such catches".

The IUCN states that exports of this species should not take place from the Solomon Islands and that "CITES parties should not issue permits to import dolphins" from these islands.

How then can RWS claim to be protecting these dolphins while contributing to one of their threats to survival in the Solomon Islands?

Over 680,000 people have joined ACRES to urge RWS to release the dolphins. Our challenge to RWS is simple, and it leaves the decision to the dolphins.

If it believes that its remaining 25 dolphins are happy in their current situation, then ACRES asks that RWS gives the dolphins a chance to swim freely again in the ocean.

If they truly wish to remain living with their trainers and in captivity, then surely they will not swim away but remain with the trainers. Will RWS agree to this challenge?

Give 25 dolphins at Marine Life Park the choice.

Marine Life Park should be supported
Letter from Auw Chor Wah Today Online 21 Oct 11;

I could not agree more with Mr Neil Wilkinson, in his letter "We should support RWS' Marine Life Park" (Oct 18).

Resorts World Sentosa's dolphins are the lucky few who will not only be given balanced and nutritious food, but imagine the love their caregivers would bestow on them.

Others may say that these animals are best appreciated in the wild, but for senior citizens like me, I would relish to see them up close without having to travel overseas.

It is a rare opportunity for both young and old Singaporeans to learn more about dolphins.

We should support RWS' Marine Life Park
Letter from Neil Wilkinson Today Online 18 Oct 11;

There has been some negative reaction to the coming Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa, specifically regarding its dolphins. But this is coming only from activist groups who are in the minority.

Perhaps it is time for the majority of Singaporeans to applaud RWS' conservation efforts and be proud that Singapore will have the world's largest oceanarium.

No one can say what dolphins prefer. They could be living in fear of killer whales, having to hunt for food in oily, litter-filled seas, with the prospect of starving due to over-fishing by man, and facing horrific injuries from speeding motorboats with no regard for their lives.

Or they could be living in pristine, clear water, safe from predators and speed boats, and having food provided for them.

I think most Singaporeans, if given a choice between a small but safe flat, with restaurants or supermarkets around the corner, and a large country estate where they have to grow their own vegetables or catch their own food, with the danger of snake bites and other wild animals, would choose the former.

Education and conservation is vital today. I believe most Singaporeans recognise this and are looking forward to the Marine Life Park opening next year.

Perhaps someone should create an "I support the Marine Life Park" Facebook page to allow the silent majority of Singaporeans to stand up against the continual bad press and campaign against housing the dolphins. I am proud to support the park and look forward to visiting it.