The death of male dolphin Wen Wen on Thursday has ignited the online community, with many of those who are vocal expressing outrage and anger at the incident.
This was made worse when Resorts World Sentosa deleted comments from the public on its Facebook page from Thursday evening to Friday morning.
Asked on this by inSing News, a spokesperson from Marine Life Park said: “We welcome civil, constructive and topic-related comments or feedback in relation to Resorts World Sentosa and any of our assets. Moderation of content on our Facebook page only applies to spam, repetitive or abusive messages. We also provide appropriate channels for the online community to bring their views across such as on our Marine Life Park blog.”
It has since stopped censoring most of the comments.
Wen Wen the dolphin is the third to die out of 27 wild-caught Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins bought by Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) for the park, which also opened Thursday, 22 November. The other two died of a bacterial infection while they were held in Malaysia.
Animal rights activists in the Philippines were trying to stop the dolphins from being exported to Singapore and have been applying to the court to block the move.
Louis Ng, founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), an animal welfare charity group that has been advocating that the resort should not include dolphins in its oceanarium, told inSing News that he would be back in the Philippines on Monday for a court hearing in Quezon City as “there are pending contempt charges against RWS for exporting the dolphins from the Philippines”.
He said he was disappointed that the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) issued permits for the dolphins to enter Singapore even though he has appealed to the agency for a discussion before doing so.
He was hoping that AVA “will also respect the Philippines justice system" and not allow the import of the dolphins until the legal case has been concluded, but added that all dolphins are now in Singapore. He is waiting to get answers from AVA on whether the dolphin trade done by the resort was "sustainable and not detrimental to the survival of the species in the Solomon Islands”, where they were acquired in 2008 and 2009.
Ng said: “I was angry when I heard the news. The rest of the dolphins will know that one among them is dead and will be distressed. I cannot imagine what they must have gone through for the last four years.”
ACRES will be organising a candlelight vigil and memorial service for the dolphin on 2 December at Hong Lim Park.
Marine Life Park said in a statement that it is “deeply saddened” by Wen Wen’s death and the dolphin “will be sorely missed”. Wen Wen died suddenly less than an hour into landing during the three-hour flight. Previously, it had survived a shark attack in the wild and bore the scars of a shark bite on its torso.
“Two marine mammal veterinarians and eight marine mammal specialists accompanying and monitoring the 11 dolphins on the flight responded with emergency medical treatment,” the statement read. “No medical results or behavioural observations indicated that Wen Wen was in a compromised condition to make the journey.”
The park said “International Air Transportation Association (IATA) standards and protocols were strictly observed and enforced during the planning and implementation of our marine mammal transport”, adding that its four veterinarians “have a combined experience of successfully transporting more than 500 marine mammals”.
A necropsy was performed in the presence of AVA officers and over the next few weeks, further laboratory tests will be done in Singapore and the US to assess any contributing factors to the death.
The rest of the dolphins are now acclimatising at the park during the quarantine period, and “no effort or resources will be spared in ensuring the health and well-being of our dolphins and all marine animals at Marine Life Park”, the spokesperson said.
Animal lovers against the commercial exploitation of captive dolphins turned to the RWS' Facebook page and the Marine Life Park blog to express their anger towards the incident, saying it is cruel to confine ocean mammals in a holding space. They are calling for the resort to free the dolphins, with some asking the public to boycott the oceanarium.
“Leana Lyn Sadasivan” posted a comment: “I believe there is much educational value in teaching our children compassion and conservation. These principles are not imparted by taking wild dolphins out of their natural habitat, and throwing off the balance of their ecosystems, simply to parade them for the pleasure of being able to see animals in urban Singapore.
“In an age where the world's resources are humanity's to exploit, perhaps we could all benefit from learning about and practising a little more compassion and conservation.”
On the blog, “Alvin Pang” asked: “3 out of 27 dolphins (>10%) dead. What conservation?”
“Lay Kian” wrote: “How about the bonds Wen Wen had built with his family and friends in his 6 years of life prior to his capture. Do you feel for him?”
"Andrew Randrianasulu" felt that the “best way to honour memory” of the dead dolphin is to give “freedom” to the “other captives, before it’s too late”.
“Catherine Lim” commented that “dolphins are not meant to fly” and “Jane Reniers” said it was “very sad” that the dolphin “survived a shark attack and died for human greed”.
OTHER DOLPHIN DEATHS AT SENTOSA
The Marine Life Park is not the first to spark controversy with its dolphins.
Underwater World Singapore, the other oceanarium in Sentosa that opened in 1991, also made news when two Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, also known as pink dolphins, died while in captivity.
It was the first in the world to try breeding these dolphins in captivity, but the breeding programme kept running into trouble.
In 2001, one female dolphin Namtam died from acute gastritis, months after it suffered a miscarriage in 2000. Another dolphin Pann gave birth in 2001, but the baby died within an hour.
The Dolphin Lagoon originally had six Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins from Thailand. The dolphins did stunts to entertain visitors and people were allowed to touch them – activities that animal welfare activists oppose.