Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XI No. 4 - October 2002
Qi Qi, 25, a Yangtze River dolphin, died in mid July at the Wuhan Institute of Hydrobiology. Injured by a fisherman in 1980, Qi Qi survived 22 years in captivity at the Institute, dying of old age. He had given hope of a breeding program to save the critically endangered species from extinction, but all females captured for this desperate program quickly died. Fewer than 100 survive in their only natural habitat, the lower half of central China's increasingly busy and polluted Yangtze River. Hopes of establishing a protective reserve failed, as these dolphins do not seem to survive if transplanted to other locations. After perhaps 25 million years in the Yangtze the dolphins may be extinct in two decades, victims of industrial waste, boat propellers, and net entanglements.
The La Paz dolphins languish in the same weedy, dirty, noisy pen along the La Paz beach in Mexico, victims of a boiling political struggle. The brutally slow saga of their captivity continues out of sight in Mexico City, in a tug of war between officials, conservation groups, politicians and the ever-powerful governor of Baja California Sur. As a result of many developments, including the law governing the care and maintenance of captive cetaceans, the closing of negligent facilities like Acapulco Paradise, and an emerging public awareness, freedom for the La Paz Seven remains popular but uncertain. The best option, the dolphins' rehabilitation and release by the all-Mexican team of the Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos de Mexico AC (COMARINO), is competing with a back door ploy by an aquarium with government connections.
Bluefield and Nica, two captive bottlenose dolphins, were released off the coast of Nicaragua on 23 August. The successful 16-day rehabilitation by Helene and Ric O'Barry, had the help of funds and staff of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), and the Nicaraguan Coast Guard and Minister of the Environment Jorge Salazar. The two dolphins had been captured three months earlier by inexperienced people with the intent of creating a swim-with therapy program for handicapped children. There was no information about deaths of injuries to other dolphins during the capture. Kept in a poorly filtered fresh water pool, with inadequate diet and care, the dolphins were suffering from sores and illnesses when found and reported by WSPA. The Nicaraguan Ministry of the Environment confiscated the dolphins, and WSPA was officially granted custody during the first week of August. After a few days in a clean, artificial saltwater pool, the dolphins were moved to a sea pen by a Nicaraguan army helicopter. The rehabilitation was aided by the short captivity period, and the fact that both were adults. WSPA and others are urging the Nicaraguan government to pass legislation that would prohibit the capture of wild dolphins. To learn more about the problems created by keeping wild dolphins captive, visit http://www.freethedolphins.org/.
Dolphinaria in Europe - Animal protection from a legal perspective is now available from ASMS (Swiss Working Group for the Protection of Marine Mammals) and is available in German and English. It examines EU dolphinarium operations from legal, regulatory and ethical perspectives, providing a tool for organizations interested in captive cetacean issues, and a stimulus for regulators and politicians worldwide. A copy may be requested from Sigrid Lueber, President, ASMS, Oberdorfstrasse 16 P.O. Box 30 CH-8820 Waedenswil, Switzerland, http://www.asms-swiss.ch/.
Captivity Stinks is a web site that exposes the realities of cetaceans in captivity, and is now available in English, Spanish and French:
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