Give them liberty or give them fish

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July 1996:

KEY WEST, Florida––It’s all over now but the blame-throwing. Bogie and
Bacall, the former Ocean Reef Club dolphins, are back at large in the Indian River Lagoon,
where they were captured in 1987, unidentifiable because someone on the night of May 17
cut the plastic fence forming their sea pen to release them just before they were to be freezebranded
to facilitate follow-up study of their progress.
Luther and Jake, two former Navy dolphins, are back in the Navy, and Buck, the
third of that group, will rejoin the Navy marine mammal program when and if he recovers
from an infected deep cut of unknown origin. Luther had a similar but less serious cut.

Luther and Buck were released off Key West on May 23 by Ric O’Barry, the former
“Flipper” trainer whose Earth Day 1970 arrest
for attempting to free a dolphin kindled the
dolphin liberation movement. While O’Barry
contended almost a year ago that Luther and
Buck were even then ready for release,
Luther was recaptured on May 30, Buck on
June 6. Both were induced into holding pens
at the Dolphin Research Center, a dolphin
swim facility located in proximity to the
Sugarloaf Lagoon, where the dolphins were
kept fron their November 1994 arrival as
Navy special weapons program surplus, until
the attempted releases.
Jake, whom O’Barry deemed a
poor candidate for release, was seized from
Sugarloaf by federal agents on June 7.
Because Bogie and Bacall cannot be
distinguished from other dolphins in the
Indian River lagoon, Joe Roberts of the
Dolphin Alliance, their legal custodian, will
be unable to meet the National Marine
Fisheries Service requirement that legal dolphin
releases be monitored and followed up.
Nor is it possible to determine whether
Bacall, expected to give birth in June, will
do so successfully.
Because both the Bogie and Bacall
project and the Navy dolphin project took two
years to achieve no quantifiable positives,
eating money while paperwork piled up amid
unending acrimony involving all the biggest
names in the dolphin liberation cause,
chances seem slim that anyone else in the
U.S. will soon get a similar chance to return
longterm captive dolphins to the wild. The
Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary, formed with
fanfare in 1993, with an all-star cast of dolphin
advocates on the staff and board, fell
apart almost as soon as it actually had some
Little sweetness
From the first, Sugarloaf came
under fire from DRC proprietor Armando
Rodrieguez and members of a Roberts family,
unrelated to Joe Roberts, several of
whom had worked for Rodrieguez. While
O’Barry and Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary
president Lloyd Good III, son of the facility
owner, have represented the DRC opposition
as opposition from “the captive industry,”
the documents filed with the National Marine
Fisheries Service in opposition to allowing
Sugarloaf to keep dolphins read more like
part of a family feud.
Within Sugarloaf followed equally
acrimonious disputes over fundraising, lines
of authority, training and untraining methods,
and who out of as many as 80 staff,
donors, and volunteers present at any given
time would actually get to play with the dolphins,
who were supposedly being taught to
quit interacting with human beings.
Nobody came out looking good, no
one could claim success, and fingering any
one person or institution for the failure might
be simplistic––although a move to draft
O’Barry as all-purpose scapegoat has been on
since May 1994, when Russ Rector of the
Dolphin Freedom Foundation was arrested
for entering the Ocean Reef Club property
while Bogie and Bacall were being slingtrained
for transport to Sugarloaf. Rector,
who along with O’Barry and Roberts had
campaigned for the release of the Ocean Reef
Club dolphins, argued that Roberts and
O’Barry had improperly cut him out of the
deal that gave them custody of the dolphins.
The next big split came in
December 1994, when Sugarloaf owner
Lloyd Good III fired trainers Ric Trout and
Lynn Stringer, two weeks after the arrival of
the Navy dolphins; they responded by asking
the USDA to investigate possible violations
of care standards at the sanctuary, again
blaming O’Barry. Interestingly enough,
though Trout in particular was target of flak
from DRC, he ended up aligned with DRC
after forming the Marine Mammal
Conservancy, an apparent intended rival to
Sugarloaf, at Key Largo.
Roberts broke with O’Barry in
March 1995, purportedly because O’Barry
refused to cooperate in seeking a release permit
from the National Marine Fisheries
Service. Financial matters were also in dispute.
Sponsors and Sugarloaf Sanctuary
board members who eventually sided with
Roberts––after O’Barry and Good allowed
Bogie and Bacall to swim free on two occasions
without NMFS permission––included
Naomi Rose of the Humane Society of the
U.S., Rick Spill of the Animal Welfare
Institute, Mark Berman of the Earth Island
Institute, and Bob Schoelkopf of the Marine
Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine,
New Jersey, all of whom voted in June 1995
to take Bogie and Bacall back to the Indian
River, under Roberts’ supervision.
By that time O’Barry was also differing
with Good over dolphin care arrangements
that resulted in Luther and/or Buck
impregnanting both Bogie and Bacall.
According to the Sugarloaf board minutes,
O’Barry, blamed for the pregnancies,
opposed any form of captive breeding. One
pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage; the
other dolphin was expected to deliver in June.
The fence-cutting came at an auspicious
time not only because Bogie and Bacall
escaped freeze-branding, and were freed
before the birthing, but also because a
NMFS rule formalizing the requirement of a
permit for dolphin releases was to take effect
on June 10, just over three weeks later.
The roster of suspects could accordingly
have included anyone who wanted the
dolphins to go free, regardless of bureaucracy;
anyone out to sabotage future dolphin
releases; anyone with a vendetta against
Roberts; and anyone who wanted to frame
anyone else for it.
“I guarantee it wasn’t me,” said
O’Barry, admitting he should nonetheless be
a suspect not only because he has cut fences
before to release dolphins, but also because
he posed for a postcard photo, published in
the September 1995 edition of A N I M A L
P E O P L E, beside a split chain link fence,
boltcutters in hand and a dolphin in the background,
above the slogan, “Coming soon to
an aquarium near you.”
Both O’Barry and Rector, another
name coming quickly to mind because of his
history of disputes with the other principals,
say they wouldn’t have released Bogie and
Bacall in the Indian River Lagoon, however,
because it has well-known water quality
problems, which both have repeatedly cited
in objecting to Roberts’ operation.
Among at least a dozen other people
with records of feuding that could provide
a motive, the one person known to have
committed to writing a threat to cut the net
was International Wildlife Coalition president
Daniel Morast, one of Roberts’ major
backers, who wrote to former Dolphin
Alliance board member Mary Mosley, “The
sponsors and staff remain committed to
securing a timely approval from federal
authorities to release the dolphins as soon as
possible. If we don’t secure the final permit,
the only alternative is to cut the nets.”
Responded O’Barry, “Morast
doesn’t have the balls to cut the nets.”
Starving or fit?
Others were saying equally impolite
things about O’Barry, Luther, and Buck.
According to faxed communiques from
Trout, “Luther was seen injured and begging
near a busy Key West highway two days after
being dumped eight miles offshore. Buck
found his way nearly 70 miles from the dump
site, malnourished and showing more gross
signs of weight loss than Luther.”
DRC repeatedly posted similar
charges to the Internet. Trout and DRC also
described the unexplained wounds to Buck
and Luther as having been caused by boat
O’Barry contended that Luther and
Buck were following schools of mullet into
shallow bays like wild dolphins; checking
out human activity in the same manner as
wild dolphins; were not underweight but
physically fit, weighing in fact just about
what they did when first received at
Sugarloaf; and argued that the wounds were
rake marks from fights with other dolphins.
Further, O’Barry contended, Trout lured
Luther and Buck back into captivity by using
a Navy-style “recall pinger,” to which they
were trained to respond.
After Luther and Buck were recaptured,
marine mammal veterinarian Gregory
Bassart––who wrote a letter of recommendation
for Stringer during the Sugarloaf permitting
process––said the wounds were definitely
not rake marks. “I’ve seen very similar
lesions on manatees that were caused by
boats,” he said.
As to why Luther and Buck were
recaptured, O’Barry’s critics argued that if
he had successfully untrained them, they
would no longer answer the dinner bell.
Wrote O’Barry in a June 5 prepared
statement, “I am one of the few people who
have successfully untrained captive dolphins
and returned them to their natural home, the
sea. I use the term ‘untrain’ because some
people have the impression that captive dolphins
can be trained to be wild dolphins
again. This is not so. It’s impossible. If you
know how dolphins are trained, by withholding
food from them,” a claim trainers entering
the field within the past 15 years say is no
longer true, “you must realize that you cannot
train them to be untrained. My method is
to study the dolphins closely as individuals
and then gradually remove all apparent
human support. I don’t let them see me, for
instance, when I feed them. As the weeks
and months go by, I begin feeing them live
fish, which they must catch for themselves.
They learn to catch their own fish again.
When that happens, they are ready for
release. I worked with these three Navy dolphins
since November 1994, spending thousands
of dollars contributed by people who
know me and my work. It was apparent to
me that one of the dolkphins, Jake, was not
a candidate for release, that he would stay at
the sanctuary. But the other two would make
it. After blood tests and other medical tests
by a veterinarian, about 20 of us carefully
loaded them into a boat and took them out to
the Gulf of Mexico, where they were
released. Meanwhile, the Department of
Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries
Service received complaints from former dolphin
trainers and the Dolphin Research
Center, who want the dolphins and want to
discredit my work,” which in fact some persons
formerly associated with DRC have
been attacking ever since O’Barry and
Sugarloaf Lodge owner Lloyd Good III first
applied for permits to become the Sugarloaf
Dolphin Sanctuary.
“They stalked and harassed the two
dolphins from the moment they were
released,” O’Barry continued, “feeding
them dead fish and re-establishing their
trained behavior, finally capturing them. I
am filing a lawsuit against them for return of
the dolphins,” O’Barry pledged, “for I have
broken no law, nor have I been cited for
allegedly breaking one.”
O’Barry’s contentions about Luther
and Buck’s responses to the pinger were supported
by experimental psychologist Joe
Dlhopolsky. “I know well that extinction
training will work with lab rats and pigeons,”
he posted to the MARMAM online forum for
marine mammologists, “However, spontaneous
recovery is all too easy to demonstrate.
All that is needed is a renewed exposure to
the conditioning stimulus. In the case of
highly intelligent creatures like dolphins,
how realistic is it to expect that they could be
extinguished from any learned behavior, let
alone response to an acoustic recall device? I
can’t see how this could be a practical condition
for release.”
Character witnesses
O’Barry’s prepared statement was
markedly more dignified, if less colorful,
than his remarks to ANIMAL PEOPLE o n
the telephone about an hour later. On the
telephone, O’Barry asserted that the events
of late May and early June were orchestrated
by Marilee Menard of the Alliance of Marine
Mammal Parks and Aquariums, in cahoots
with the National Marine Fisheries Service,
the Navy, and “the Dolphin Riding Center,”
as he repeatedly termed DRC. O’Barry said
he’d also heard that Sea World was searching
the Indian River Lagoon for Bogie and
Bacall. Among the problems with that plot
scenario were that Menard was in England
for two weeks overlapping most of the action,
O’Barry’s source said Sea World was actually
in the Indian River Lagoon just once during
the time in question, to pick up an ailing
manatee, and Sea World vice president of
operations Brad Andrews said, “Sea World
has not been involved in any way to recapture
Bogie and Bacall.”
But O’Barry had allies, including
Noelle Delaquis, of Zurich, Switzerland,
who wasn’t buying anything the Dolphin
Research Center said.
“The Dolphin Research Center captured
a dolphin from the wild in 1986 and
sold it to a night club in Switzerland,” she
charged. “This place is one of the worst
facilities in the world. The captive dolphins
there are exposed to noise and light, day and
night. The dolphin’s name is Chispa, and
she is now about 11 years old. Three years
ago she gave birth to a stillborn baby. She
had to perform the entire day, during which
her dead calf was lying on the ground.“
Speaking more to the issues, Jose
Truda Palazzo Jr. of the Brazilian branch of
the International Wildlife Coalition affirmed
from his own observations and those of
Brazilian colleagues that O’Barry’s 1991
release of the last captive dolphin in Brazil
was successful, “judging from many resightings
of this individual dolphin,” who
was freeze-branded for easy identification
And asked MARMAM participant
Jeff Lederman, “Please enlighten me if I am
missing something obvious, but what is the
significance of these two dolphins? Marine
mammals around the world are dying at an
alarming rate. What possible difference will
it make if these animals were raked or propinjured?
It looks a little like these dolphins
are just being used to bust O’Barry’s chops. I
don’t know if O’Barry does good work or
not, but compare the damage he could do to
the damage done by one tuna boat or one
toxic barrel thrown overboard. So many people-hours
and so much money is being spent
on two poor prospects for anything. Why?”
“With the money blown on these
projects,” O’Barry said, “I could have saved
the Chinese river dolphin.”

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