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NParks’ vets observe ‘no abnormal behaviour’ by RWS dolphins after viral video raises alarm

SINGAPORE — Veterinarians from the National Parks Board (NParks) have visited a dolphin facility at Sentosa and found no abnormal behaviour by the creatures, days after a viral video of a dolphin shocked viewers on social media.

On a viral video showing a bottle-nosed dolphin repeatedly bashing its head against the side of its aquatic enclosure, Resorts World Sentosa declined to confirm whether the footage was taken at its facility.

On a viral video showing a bottle-nosed dolphin repeatedly bashing its head against the side of its aquatic enclosure, Resorts World Sentosa declined to confirm whether the footage was taken at its facility.

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SINGAPORE — Veterinarians from the National Parks Board (NParks) have visited a dolphin facility at Sentosa and found no abnormal behaviour by the creatures, days after a viral video of a dolphin shocked viewers on social media.

Dr Chua Tze Hoong, NParks’ group director for its Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), said: “Our veterinary team visited the Resorts World Sentosa’s (RWS') dolphin facility, and did not observe any abnormal behaviour during the visit.”

Dr Chua added in a statement issued on Thursday (Dec 5) that AVS “takes a serious view on ensuring that animal businesses comply with licensing requirements to safeguard animal health and welfare”.

A 27-second clip of a bottle-nosed dolphin repeatedly bashing its head against the side of its aquatic enclosure was uploaded onto a Facebook page on Monday. It is not clear when the incident happened.

The video has been shared more than 884 times as of Thursday, with many viewers expressing outrage in the comments section. It had been viewed 193,000 times. The post stated that it was filmed at the RWS SEA Aquarium, which includes the Dolphin Island attraction.

In response to queries from TODAY, an RWS spokesperson said that the resort is uncertain of the source of the video, but said that its Dolphin Island attraction is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The spokesperson declined to confirm whether the footage was taken at the RWS facility.

“We are committed to providing the highest level of husbandry and veterinary care for our marine mammals,” he added.

He also said that dolphins have a natural curiosity about people and their surroundings.

“At Dolphin Island, we allow our dolphins to swim on their own, or in groups at different timings. They can explore and interact with one another in our large interconnecting lagoon, which can be differently reconfigured, to encourage play and socialisation.”

As part of their natural behaviour, they communicate with each other through echolocation, making high-pitched clicking sounds and other playful actions such as nudging objects using their rostrums to attract attention, the spokesperson said.

The video was shared on the official Facebook page for the documentary, The Cove, which is about the notoriously gruesome capture and slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fishermen in the coastal town of Taiji, located in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture.

The caption for the video stated that an Empty the Tanks supporter, a campaign that seeks to end cetacean captivity, had sent in the footage to them. Cetaceans are a type of marine mammal.

“This distressing behaviour is one of the many reasons dolphins do not belong in captivity,” the administrators of the page wrote.

CONTROVERSIAL ATTRACTION

RWS has long been dogged by controversy over the captivity of its wild-caught dolphins.

In 2012, many animal advocates protested against the resort’s decision to include 27 wild Indo-Pacific bottle-nose dolphins, from the Solomon Islands, as part of its attraction.

Two dolphins died of bacterial infections in 2010 before they arrived in Singapore, while a third died in 2012 on the flight to Singapore due to acute infection.

The death of a fourth dolphin, named Sharmilla, in 2014 saw animal welfare groups renewing their calls for the remaining aquatic mammals to be released from captivity.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) was one such group, and it told TODAY on Wednesday that it stands by its earlier statements on the matter.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, Acres’ deputy chief executive, said that the group actively campaigned in 2013 against the resort’s decision to import the dolphins to “exhibit them for entertainment and profit”. It had also reached out to RWS numerous times to seek an end to the dolphins’ plight.

Ms Boopal explained that dolphins suffer in captivity because they are “complex, intelligent and social animals” whose needs cannot be met under such conditions, which can be stressful for the creatures.

“Captivity for them equals to small shallow barren tanks with concrete floors and insufficient stimulation, which results in several health issues,” she said. “We sincerely hope that RWS acts responsibly and chooses to end keeping dolphins in captivity.”

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dolphin RWS NParks animal cruelty Sea Aquarium viral video

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