Marine mammals in captivity
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1996:
A year after ANIMAL PEOPLE reader Janice
Garnett, of Venice, Florida, asked us to look into the
plight of two dispirited Pacific whitesided dolphins at the
Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco, the dolphins were
flown to Sea World San Antonio in November to join the
biggest pod of their species in captivity, at the facility considered
the state-of-the-art for keeping whales and dolphins.
ANIMAL PEOPLE passed Garnett’s letter to San Francisco
SPCA ethical studies coordinator Pam Rockwell, who
learned that the dolphins, named Amphrite and Thetis, had
been in a tank only 25% of the legal minimum size since
1975 and 1978, respectively, sharing the space with four
harbor seals whom local stranding rescuers judged unsuitable
for return to the wild. The California Academy of the
Sciences, operators of the Steinhart, had special dispensation
from the National Marine Fisheries Service and USDA to
keep the dolphins, in part because they had remained healthy
for longer than any other whitesided dolphins ever captured.
The dolphins had been used in behavioral research, ended
due to ill health on the part of senior researcher Hal
Markowitz. Visiting Sea World San Antonio, ANIMAL
PEOPLE discovered curator Glenn Young knew Amphrite
and Thetis, and was eager to have them, to give his pod
more natural diversity of age. Working with former Steinhart
director John McCosker, now retired, and his successor,
Bob Jenkins, who began his career with Sea World and readily
agreed to the transfer, Rockwell found ways around political
obstacles created in part by past anti-dolphin captivity
protests at the Steinhart. Technical problems were resolved
by advisors Joe Giraci, Sam Ridgeway, and Bruce Stephens.
The Shedd Aquarium, in Chicago, hopes to
achieve a first soon by breeding Australian lungfish in captivity.
Ultrasound technician Theresa Robot of St. Francis
Hospital in Evanston recently discovered a way to tell lungfish
males from females without dissecting them, enabling
biologists to pair them. Next problem: inducing mating.
Australian lungfish, the most primitive of their kind, apparently
haven’t changed in 100 million years. Pollution and
agricultural drainage are devastating their habitat.
Closed only on Christmas and New Year’s Day
since 1930, the Shedd Aquarium shut down for a 10-day
cleaning and maintenance bee at the beginning of January.
Director Ted Beattie said no animals would be displaced, and
performing animals would get extra trainer attention to compensate
for the temporary absence of interaction with visitors.
April, an orphaned California sea otter rescued,
raised, and released by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in
1990, has joined four other sea otters on display at Sea World
San Diego, after five years in the wild ended with a summer
of hopping on surfboards, bumping kayaks, and nuzzling
sunbathers. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has treated 113 sea
otters in all, of whom only April has developed an abnormal
interest in people. Several other sea otters were recaptured
when they proved unable to feed themselves.
Opened in 1984 with no marine mammals among
6,500 resident plants and animals, the Monterey Bay
Aquarium now has three sea otters among a total of 364,953
plants and animals, representing 571 species, according to an
October census. Many came in through the pumps that keep
the tanks filled with water from the bay; the aquarium is
believed to be the only one in the world to circulate seawater
24 hours a day. The census found 356,436 invertebrates,
7,789 fish, 669 plants, and 37 birds.
The Florida state attorney’s office on December
5 dropped a trespassing charge filed against Ric O’Barry of
the Dolphin Project by Joe Roberts of the Dolphin Alliance,
who objected to O’Barry’s presence aboard a truck delivering
the dolphins Bogie and Bacall from the Sugarloaf Dolphin
Sanctuary to a sea pen on the Indian River late last summer.
A year and a half after O’Barry and Roberts took Bogie,
Bacall, and an older companion named Molly from the former
Ocean Reef Club to Sugarloaf, starting a troubled rehabfor-release
project, and about nine months after O’Barry and
Roberts split, both Bogie and Bacall are pregnant as result of
summer swims with Luther, an ex-Navy dolphin from another
rehab-for-release project, also underway at Sugarloaf.
Roberts blames O’Barry for the pregnancies, which could
delay their release past his April target date. Bogie and Bacall
are to give birth in June. O’Barry has meanwhile resigned
from Sugarloaf, in part, he says, because over his objections,
recorded in board meeting minutes, Sugarloaf president
Lloyd Good III allowed Bogie, Bacall, and Luther to
mate. O’Barry argues that due to pollution and the recent
cold snap on the Indian River, Bogie and Bacall should be
returned to Sugarloaf, to be released with Molly, who now
has no female companions and cannot be put with Luther and
two other ex-Navy dolphins without risk of mating.
Construction of the $100 million Long Beach
Aquarium of the Pacific began on December 8. Animals are
to begin arriving in late 1997; the opening is set for 1998.