O’Barry probes Latin whale-jails

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1997:

MARACAIBO, Venezuela––
Working undercover for the World
Society for the Protection of Animals,
Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin Project
suspected he might be in trouble with
Colombian cocaine kings, whom he
alleged had invested in a traveling
marine mammal act, but was more
concerned with Pepsi Cola than coke
when he called ANIMAL PEOPLE
to share information.
Pepsi and Polar Beer, O’Barry
said, were evidently major sponsors
of a Latin American tour by WaterLand/Mundo
Marino, of Cali, Colombia,
which O’Barry and colleague
Helene Hesselager in a November 13
report to WSPA termed “probably the
last traveling dolphin show in the
world, and clearly the most abusive.”

Consisting of two Cuban dolphins
and three South American sea
lions, WaterLand Mundo Marino in
August 1997 applied to enter Puerto
Rico, after hitting eight other
Caribbean venues in about 15
months––but on September 25 were
denied a permit by the National
Marine Fisheries Service, due to lack
of a USDA exhibitor’s license;
because the dolphins were “Cuban
merchandise,” under U.S. embargo;
because records for the sea lions were
incomplete; and because “The educational
program was not based on
professionally recognized standards.”
As other activists celebrated,
O’Barry followed the show to
Maracaibo, where he and Hesselager
persuaded mayor Manual Rosales to
withhold performance permits.
On October 12, O’Barry
inspected and photographed the by
then sickly dolphins, as two veterinarians
flown in from Mexico prepared
to force-feed them.
The traveling may have ended
in late October at Diver Land, an
amusement park in Margarita, Venezuela.
There, O’Barry, Hesselager,
and interpreter Evan Glassett found
four dolphins on October 27, three
on display and one in isolation.
Facilities were being built for up to a
dozen more dolphins, said to be
arriving soon from Cuba.
The isolated dolphin died by
October 31. Diver Land management
denied she ever was there.
While in Latin America,
O’Barry also probed other reports of
expanded dolphin captivity. A failed
dolphin swim operation that O’Barry
probed in 1993 reportedly may move
from Cadaques, Spain, to Costa
Rica; and soon after Cayman Islands
officials refused to let promoter
Fernando Delgado add a dolphin
swim to the state-run Cayman Turtle
Farm, two dolphins turned up at the
Hotel Delfines, in Lima, Peru.
Of most concern was the still
uncertain fate of as many as 40 boto
river dolphins whom activists say
were captured last spring by U.S.
aquarium suppliers in the Punk River
of Venezuela. The Dallas World
Aquarium applied to import four of
them, but on September 25 withdrew
the application because “no reliable
scientific census data exists for these
animals in the wild,” general curator
John Carlyle said.
Other rumored would-be recipients
include the Norwalk Aquarium
in California, Colorado’s Ocean
Journey, and an aquarium that the
Japanese firm Kajima International
reportedly plans to build in Hawaii.
None are ready to take animals.
The John Shedd Aquarium in
Chicago and the Duisberg Zoo in
Germany, also mentioned by captivity
opponents, have denied interest.
The case for releasing captive
dolphins got a recent boost from the
August 23 sighting off Wilmington,
North Carolina, of a dolphin branded
#56, reportedly released by the
Miami Seaquarium in 1970 at age 11.
However, the U.S. Navy,
which sent three dolphins to an illfated
release project that O’Barry
coordinated in 1995-1996, has now
decided to keep all of its 75 dolphins
in active service.

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