UWS rebuts wildlife group’s report on health, treatment of dolphins
SINGAPORE — A wildlife group here recently released a 30-page dossier — complete with pictures of a dolphin with skin problems, corroded play pens and otters being housed in small enclosures with shallow pools — alleging that the health of the pink dolphins at Underwater World Singapore (UWS) was “appalling and deteriorating” and that sick or injured animals were being exhibited or used for shows, which are against the law.
Their allegations were rejected by UWS, which clarified that the sick dolphin was suffering from skin cancer and was being treated by its marine mammal veterinarian. Given that the condition is not transmissible, the trainers decided not to isolate the sick dolphin and to instead allow it to play with the other dolphins in the main pool. The dolphin does not participate in any performances or programmes, UWS said.
In response to media queries, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that following feedback from Wildlife Watcher (Singapore) — which had prepared the report in collaboration with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — it has inspected UWS and found the dolphins to be in satisfactory condition.
“However, one of the dolphins has been diagnosed with a form of non-contagious skin cancer and is currently undergoing treatment by UWS’ team of animal healthcare professionals ... The affected dolphin is being monitored closely by the team and is not used for animal performances,” the authority said.
The report stated that a member of the public had alerted Wildlife Watcher (Singapore) and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on July 1 to the condition of the dolphins kept in the Dolphin Lagoon at UWS.
The report — which was supported by Indonesian groups Animal Friends Jogja and Jakarta Animal Aid Network — was prepared over two visits to UWS on July 23 and Aug 17. Over a total of seven hours, the investigators visited the enclosures and recorded their observations of animal shows and programmes for the public.
“The display and usage of sick/injured animals for shows are in clear violation of the law as well as contradict UWS’ stand on conservation and education,” the report said.
Apart from the health of the animals and the condition of their enclosures, the report said the dolphins and fur seals were made to perform “unnatural acts for entertainment”. The loud music before and during the show — measuring between 90 and 101 decibels — also caused stress to the animals, it added.
Among other things, the report called on UWS and its owner Haw Par Corporation to cease all animal shows with immediate effect and start a rehabilitation-and-release programme for all its dolphins. It also sought a response from the two parties as well as the AVA on the findings.
When contacted, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), which has spoken out against the keeping of dolphins in captivity, said it supported the campaign by Wildlife Watcher (Singapore). Adding that he was appalled by the conditions at the Dolphin Lagoon, ACRES executive director Louis Ng said: “ACRES hopes that companies in Singapore will make a moral and ethical decision to end the confinement of dolphins in captivity.”