SINGAPORE, 19 October 2012 – ACRES today released a new campaign video, “Pillaging the Solomons”, highlighting the fact that Resorts World Sentosa’s (RWS) acquisition of 27 wild-caught dolphins from the Solomon Islands between 2008 and 2009 contributed to the depletion of this species there. A recent scientific report confirms that previous captures of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) from the Solomon Islands were unsustainable and therefore that the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) was not complied with.
Before RWS acquired the dolphins from the Solomon Islands, information was already available advising against the purchase. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) stated that import and export of bottlenose dolphins from the Solomon Islands should not take place as it might be detrimental to the survival of this species there. IUCN further stated that “their preference (T. aduncus) as a captive display species makes them vulnerable to depletion from such catches.”
A scientific study conducted by the Solomon Islands Government and the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium between 2009 and 2011 confirms the IUCN statements, and provides compelling evidence that past trade in T. aduncus was indeed unsustainable and detrimental to the survival of these populations.
Most of the dolphins exported from the Solomon Islands came from Guadalcanal North Coast. Researchers estimate that only 86 to 162 dolphins remain in that area. According to the study, it seems likely that a large portion of the resident T. aduncus population was removed because of live-captures and the local populations in Guadalcanal have been depleted by the captures.
Furthermore, RWS acquired 27 dolphins within the period of about one year. The study confirms that this was unsustainable and concludes that for the trade to be sustainable, no more than one dolphin every five years should be removed from Guadalcanal.
The study further states that there is little doubt that several deaths occurred in the process of capturing the animals, as well as during captivity.
RWS has failed to live up to their own claims. In September 2012, RWS said “…we adhere and even go beyond the guidelines stipulated by the American Zoo and Aquariums Association as well as the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks Aquariums”. However, the Executive Director of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums stated that it does not support collection of animals from Solomon Island waters, and that any collections from there to date would not adhere to their standards and guidelines requirements.
“We hope that through the campaign video, people will see the truth behind these captures and speak up against it through our new online petition protest letters. RWS is supposed to be ‘committed to marine conservation’. They should have performed due diligence before they acquired the dolphins and they clearly should have followed the recommendations of the IUCN and ACRES. We hope that RWS will now make the right decision and work with ACRES and Earth Island Institute to rehabilitate and release these dolphins back into the wild” said Mr. Louis Ng, Chief Executive of ACRES.
The recent successful release in Turkey of two wild-caught dolphins who spent six to seven years in captivity has indicated that it is possible for the RWS dolphins - who have spent less time in captivity - to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. After a 20-month rehabilitation process, the two dolphins, Tom and Misha, have made excellent progress since their release.
The Born Free Foundation has reported that “According to the satellite mapping, they have travelled hundreds of miles in a pattern that indicates they remain healthy and are feeding well.”
The global movement to end the keeping of dolphins in captivity is growing. This year, Switzerland joined a growing list of progressive countries who have banned the importation of dolphins. Following votes in both Houses of Parliament, the keeping of dolphins or whales in Swiss zoos or waterparks will be forced to come to an end. The Solomon Islands has also banned the export of dolphins with effect from 1 January 2012.
Louis Ng (Chief Executive, ACRES)