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Dolphin’s Demise Reignites Sentosa Controversy


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#1 AnimuX

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 06:56 AM

http://blogs.wsj.com...osa-controversy

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One of the 25 bottlenose dolphins slated to be part of a new attraction at the luxury Resorts World Sentosa casino resort died Thursday on its journey from the Philippines to Singapore, spurring fervent calls for the mammals to be released in the wild rather than held by the resort.

Wen Wen, a male dolphin estimated to be about ten years old, “died suddenly” just before the flight was due to land in Singapore, according to a spokesman from Resorts World Sentosa. Veterinarians and marine mammal specialists accompanying the dolphins were unable to resuscitate him with emergency medical treatment, and the cause of the dolphin’s death remains unknown.

The arrival of dolphins, which were transported from Subic Bay in the Philippines to Singapore this week, have invigorated the city-state’s sleepy activist community, stirring thousands who believe the animals have been mistreated by being held in captivity. More than 23,000 have joined a Facebook FB -1.32% group called “Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins” that is pushing Resorts World Sentosa to free the dolphins, which caught in the Solomon Islands between 2008 and 2009.

Before Wen Wen’s death, two other dolphins of those caught died in 2010 while being held in Langkawi in Malaysia. Resorts World acknowledged the deaths, saying it was due to a waterborne bacterial infection and occurred despite efforts to save the animals. Activists, though, are insistent that holding the dolphins in captivity is cruel and exploitative, believing the animals thrive in the wild and should not be trained for human entertainment.

Wen Wen, who spent six years of his life in the wild and four with his trainer, was described by the resort as “a sociable dolphin” who “survived a shark attack in the wild and had scars of a shark bite on his torso”.

The mammals will be part of a so-called dolphin experience offered by the resort’s newly-opened Marine Life Park. It is billed as the “world’s largest oceanarium” with more than 100, 000 fish, including rare sharks, and an attraction replicating a coral reef. According to Marine Life Park, the 24 other dolphins have reached the facility safely and are now under quarantine, with dolphin interaction programs for paying customers to begin next year. The resort has stated that they “do not intend to do shows” with the animals but will allow the dolphins to explore their “natural physical abilities” in exercise sessions with trainers.

A spokesman from the resort said it was “deeply saddened” to hear about the dolphin’s death, and noted that “no medical results or behavioral observations indicated that Wen Wen was in a compromised condition to make the journey”. Laboratory tests will be conducted in Singapore and the United States to assess what if any factors contributed to the dolphin’s demise.

Animal rights activists continued to blame the resort for the deaths, with some calling for a boycott of the entire resort and all its facilities, including one of the city-state’s two highly profitable casinos. The activists have been accused of cyber-harassment by Resorts World, with many of them leaving negative comments on posts unrelated to the Marine Life Park or dolphins. A picture promoting the opening of the Marine Life Park on the resort’s Facebook page received over 100 comments, a vast majority discouraging viewers from visiting the attraction.

The dolphins’ departure from the Philippines was also fraught with drama. A group of activists there attempted to get a court order blocking the transportation of the dolphins.

Philippine animal activists managed to secure a temporary environmental protection order against the dolphins, which blocked their move to their new home in the city-state. But this was only valid for a week, after which the dolphins were flown to Singapore in two groups.

The resort said in a statement that it “followed all international and multi-national regulations and guidelines” and have stressed that the dolphins are under the care of experienced veterinarians and marine mammal specialists.

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