Acres cheers Philippine court's order on dolphins

SINGAPORE - It is a rare chance to "right a wrong", a homegrown animal-welfare group said yesterday, referring to a Philippine court's order last Friday to halt the export of 25 wild-caught dolphins to Singapore.

Mr Louis Ng, executive director of animal-rights group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), told my paper: "We very seldom get a chance to right a wrong, but we now have the chance to do so."

The 25 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins - caught in waters off the Solomon Islands, near Papua New Guinea - are slated to be showcased at Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS') Marine Life Park, which is scheduled to open in December.

Mr Ng said: "These dolphins should never have been caught from the wild, and the right thing for RWS to do is repatriate the dolphins back to the Solomon Islands."

He added that the integrated resort should work with Acres and the Earth Island Institute - one of the environmental groups which filed a civil suit in the Philippines - to "rehabilitate and release" the dolphins back into the wild.

He said: "Acres is delighted that the Philippine government is reviewing the re-export of the RWS wild-caught dolphins."

He added that Acres supports the sentiments of Judge Bernelito Fernandez, who stopped the re-exportation on the grounds that it would "result in grave and irreparable damage to the population of the dolphins from the Solomon Islands".

Last week, the Philippine media reported that a Quezon City court had issued the 72-hour Temporary Environment Protection Order, preventing the dolphins from being exported to Singapore.

The court order was issued in response to the civil suit filed by environment and animal-welfare groups alleging that exporting the dolphins for sport or entertainment was illegal, cruel and would cause the extinction of the species.

In response to my paper's queries, a Marine Life Park spokesman yesterday reiterated its stance that the acquisition of the 25 dolphins adhered to the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The spokesman added that "the dolphins are currently doing well in the Philippines".

It was earlier reported that the dolphins are being housed in Subic Bay in the Philippines.

The 8ha Marine Life Park - about the size of 13 football fields - will open with more than 100,000 animals from 800 marine species. It will be the world's largest oceanarium.

RWS had said earlier that the dolphins would be on display only next year, to give them time to settle into their new enclosure.

The dolphins will be part of a series of immersive programmes beginning next year, to be held at the Adventure Cove Waterpark.

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