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Philippines halts shipment of 25 live dolphins to Singapore resort

16/10/2012 07:23:43

Sarah Brightman

Sarah Brightman, a UNESCO goodwill ambassador, has been employed to perform at the opening of the resort in december. UNESCO have a biospere reserve in the Solomon Islands, so we have asked UNESCO and Ms Nrightman's 'people' for a comment about the import of these poor dolphins.

Marine Life Park statement re import of dolphins

"The acquisition of our 25 Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins followed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) requirements. CITES regulates the trade of animals to protect wildlife species from extinction. The movement of marine animals, including dolphins, is governed by the United Nations Environment Programme which upholds the policies of CITES.

The dolphins are currently doing well in the Philippines. (Apart from the 2 that dies. Ed note.) Marine Life Park has an experienced team of animal experts who collectively represent over 300 years of experience working in more than 60 reputable zoological facilities around the world. With a mission to promote marine education, conservation and research, the Marine Life Park strives to offer an educational and memorable experience that inspires a generation of stewards for the environment."

25 dolphins awaiting shipment to giant new Singapore resort
October 2012. 27 wild Indo-Pacific dolphins were caught in the waters of the Solomon Islands in 2009, and were shipped to Ocean Adventure Marine Park in the Philippines. The Philippines was never their intended final destination though, more a ‘holding pen' whilst the vast Resorts World Sentosa was being built in Singapore. The dolphins were and are held in the Philippines until the Marine Life Park, part of Sentosa, was ready, and so they could be ‘trained' before reaching the resort.

Solomon Islands restrict dolphin capture
They were imported from the Solomon Islands by Resorts World Singapore (RWS) into the Philippines in three batches in 2008, 2009 & 2011 despite scientific reports from the IUCN stating that the harvest of wild dolphins from the Solomon Islands could put the survival of the species at risk. The IUCN report titled "Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin Assessment Workshop Report" estimates that the population of this particular species in the island nation is less than 5,000 individuals. To protect the species from extinction, the Solomon Island government banned dolphin hunts in their territorial waters starting January 1, 2012. Island officials have also limited the captures to one dolphin every 5 years.  

According the Ocean Adventure, the dolphins are not on display there, they are just being held and trained before they are shipped to Singapore. Which seems to Wildlife Extra to go against their own mission statement: "To establish a world-class marine attraction that provides a highly entertaining and informative guest experience through presentations and direct interaction with marine mammals, and viewing of marine life exhibits. To increase public awareness on the need to protect and conserve marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of the surrounding communities."

Export ban
The Philippines Government has issued, temporarily at least, a ban on the export of the dolphins to Singapore. A wildlife charity based in Singapore, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society Singapore (ACRES) has been campaigning against the import of these dolphins. In a statement, they said "ACRES is delighted that The Philippines government is reviewing the re-export of the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) wild-caught dolphins. The truth and reality is that the capture of these dolphins from the Solomon Islands was unsustainable and it would be a violation of Philippine law to allow these dolphins to be re-exported to Singapore."

ACRES echoes the sentiments of Judge Bernelito Fernandez who said that he saw the need to issue the Temporary Environment Protection Order (TEPO) "as this will result in grave and irreparable damage to the population of the dolphins from the Solomon Islands and generations yet to come and to the environment in general as the said activity has been scientifically shown to be detrimental to the survival of the species and in violation of domestic law and international conventions."

National Museum opposing the export
In addition, the National Museum and The Silliman University (the Philippines CITES Scientific Authorities for marine and aquatic species) had both opposed the import of the RWS wild-caught dolphins into the Philippines. The National Museum stated "The National Museum...firmly opposes this illicit activity. This must not be tolerated". The Silliman University stated "the Philippines by allowing these importations... may well be participating in the unsustainable exploitation of a marine mammal, something at odds with our national policy (under law) of protecting marine mammals".

Dolphins should be released into the wild in Solomon Islands
We very seldom get a chance to right a wrong but we now have the chance to do so. These dolphins should never have been caught from the wild and the right thing for RWS to do is to repatriate the dolphins back to the Solomon Islands and work with ACRES and Earth Island Institute to rehabilitate and release them back into the wild.

According to Sec. 6, Art. 1 of the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act or RA 9147: Section 6. Wildlife Information. All activities, as subsequently manifested under this Chapter, shall be authorized by the Secretary upon proper evaluation of best available information or scientific data showing that the activity is, or for a purpose, not detrimental to the survival of the species or subspecies involved and/or their habitat. For this purpose, the Secretary shall regularly update wildlife information through research.

The term ‘activities' also include ‘importation' and ‘exportation' of wildlife in the country.

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