River dolphin capture plans

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1997:

DALLAS––Rumors flying since November
1996 that major aquariums are conspiring to capture
Amazon river dolphins, boto for short, were partially
confirmed by the mid-April disclosure that the Dallas
World Aquarium, not associated with the Dallas Zoo
and Aquarium and not accredited by the Alliance of
Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, has applied to
the National Marine Fisheries Service to import four
boto for display.
Representatives of at least 13 groups from the
U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Columbia, and Finland
had protested to NMFS and the aquarium itself by April
21––but as ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press on May
28, the application had yet to be formally accepted for
publication, after which it will go through a 30-day
public comment period before NMFS announces
approval or rejection. NMFS spokesperson Catherine
Anderson said the application was “under review” to see
if it was complete, and that it would be released for
comment “possibly within the next few weeks.”


Unverified reports from marine mammal
activists claimed the four b o t o had already been captured
in Venezuela by Hawaiian dolphin researcher
Louis Herman and Mobi Solangi of Mississippi, who
leases dolphins to various facilities for exhibit. Also
said to be interested in obtaining some were the Shedd
Aquarium in Chicago, Colorado’s Ocean Journey, the
Hawaii-based Dolphin Institute, the Pittsburgh Zoo, a
proposed aquarium in Norwalk, California, and the
Duisberg Zoo in Germany.
“We have no plans to collect Amazon river
dolphins and have no knowledge of a collection,”
Shedd president Ted Beattie told ANIMAL PEOPLE
on May 23, adding “Perhaps your source heard about
some work (Shedd head trainer) Ken Ramirez may be
doing in Venezuela later this year. Ken has been asked
by the Fundacion Nacional de Parques Zoologicos y
A c u a r i o s, the South American equivalent of the
American Zoo Association, to present modern training
and husbandry techniques to many of the Latin
American facilities with a focus on their river dolphins.”
Colorado’s Ocean Journey indicated interest
in stocking botu in 1992-1993, but pressured by the
“No Dolphins in Denver” campaign mounted by Animal
Rights Mobilization, eventually pledged it would
exhibit no marine mammals.
The Dolphin Institute, directed by Louis
Herman and Adam Pack, last year sought unsuccessfully
to build an aquarium and research station at Kanaha
Beach in Maui. An extension of the University of
Hawaii’s Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory,
the Dolphin Institute has four dolphins used in behavioral
studies and a deadline from the Hawaii
Community Development Authority to move to permit
expansion of Ala Moana Park. A protest target since
1976, when activists Steve Sipman and Ken Lavasseur
released two bottlenose dolphins from the facility in the
first action attributed to the “Animal Liberation Front,”
the Dolphin Institute might stand a better chance to win
a prime site if it could claim a unique attraction.
The Pittsburgh Zoo has the only botu now in
the U.S., Chuckles, age 28, who last year was subject
of an important court verdict about the extent of liability
at animal care facilities, after biting a visitor for the
second time. The ruling, favorable to the aquarium,
was barely in before Chuckles bit another visitor. The
zoo has announced no plans to acquire more botu.
The Duisberg Zoo has two aging male b o t u,
and is building a larger tank for them within a rainforest
exhibit. According to the management, the tank will be
used after the dolphins die to house captive-bred manatees,
for whom space is scarce due to the fecundity of
manatees rescued after collisions with boats, whose
injuries prevent their return to the wild.

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