Endangered or not, RWS dolphins' welfare a concern

Louis Ng Chief Executive, ACRES Today Online 12 Dec 12;

I refer to the report "Genting Group chairman says bottlenose dolphins are 'not endangered'" (Dec 8).

Whether or not an animal suffers in captivity and whether it is ethical to remove an animal from the wild is not dependent on whether the animal is endangered. Nevertheless, the fact remains that some populations of this species are endangered.

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) acquired its dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) despite information stating that the trade in these dolphins might be detrimental to the survival of this species in the Solomon Islands.

Researchers estimate that only 86 to 162 dolphins remain in Guadalcanal, from where the dolphins were removed. Based on a recent scientific study, it seems likely that a large portion of the resident T aduncus population was removed because of live captures.

Furthermore, RWS acquired 27 dolphins within a one-year period. According to the study, for the trade to be sustainable, no more than one dolphin every five years should be removed from Guadalcanal.

While the report stated that "the Singapore Government allowed their import", we should note that RWS is facing indirect contempt of court charges in the Philippines for exporting the dolphins while the case on their re-export was being heard.

Lastly, Genting Group's chairman stated that the dolphins were "part of the company's proposal when bidding for the integrated resort".

RWS was contractually obligated to have whale sharks but scrapped these plans in 2009, stating that it may not be able to care for the animals. It could do likewise now, having not lived up to its promise of providing the dolphins "with top-class care and to treat them with respect".

The deaths of three of its dolphins, the conditions they are housed in and the firework display allowed near the dolphins indicate that it is not caring for these animals.

RWS should make the right decision: Work with the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) and Earth Island Institute to rehabilitate and release the dolphins back to the Solomon Islands.