News

Controversies over dolphins

OCTOBER 2003

Beginning in July 2003, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) had been appealing to Underwater World Singapore (UWS), which is owned by the Haw Par Corporation, to free six pink dolphins.

On Oct 22, 2003, Acres parked a black car, with a pink dolphin soft toy chained to its top, outside the Haw Par Glass Tower building in Clemenceau Avenue.

Three Acres members later handed a petition with 8,400 signatures to Haw Par.

Haw Par denied Acres' claims that the animals were stressed from being in captivity, citing the birth of a male dolphin in 2002 as evidence.

FEBRUARY 2004

Acres uncovered evidence that the six pink dolphins at UWS's Dolphin Lagoon were caught in the wild and not bred in captivity as initially claimed.

This meant that UWS had breached the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international conservation agreement which disallows the export of animals if this will affect their survival in the wild.

However, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority put this down to an administrative error and said it was still legal for UWS to keep the highly endangered creatures.

DECEMBER 2008

The debate was re-ignited when the newly-built Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) announced that the first batch of bottlenose dolphins were on their way from their native Solomon Islands habitat to the Philippines, where they would be trained before they would move on to Singapore.

Although the importation of bottlenose dolphins is legal with a permit, animal activists were upset, saying that the animals were not collected in a sustainable manner and will not thrive in captivity.

JANUARY 2011

It was revealed that the dolphins were kept in pens in Langkawi, Malaysia, for about a year before being moved to the Philippines.

But when Acres visited the pens, it said the dolphins were housed in rusty enclosures measuring 10m by 10m and these were in an area off the coast frequented by boats.

The noise would have made it stressful for dolphins, Acres said.

Two dolphins died there.

In response, an RWS spokesman said the allegations were inaccurate in parts, pointing out that Acres visited the Langkawi facility more than a month after it had closed, and that the enclosures were bigger than what was alleged.