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La Jornada

Iván Restrepo
Monday, 26 February 2001

Extreme Cruelty to Dolphins

Some functionaries frequently label as "alarmists" those who denounce the form in which animals found in exhibitions are treated. The owners of those businesses allege that they contribute to the environmental education of the population and that those wild animals are just as happy as they were in the natural ecosystems from which they were taken. This is not true.

The Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos de México group (Conservation of Marine Mammals of Mexico) reveals the true face of those who make money off of diverse species of animals, thanks to the images of a video showing the mistreatment suffered by Luna, an eight year old bottle-nosed dolphin over two meters long.

Luna was captured together with three males and four females in Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, by the company "Fins: Dolphin Learning Center", led by the doctor Javier Enríquez. The eight specimens were transported by land in a trailer to the "dolphinarium" of the company, four kilometers from La Paz.

The dolphins traveled inside crates with very little or no water and without the minimum precautions required in these cases.

The crates were hammered open. Later, during over 20 minutes each of these sensitive animals was carried in a kind of cloth stretcher held by several men. Care was not taken to ensure that the dolphins rested upon their stomachs, instead they were laid on their sides, affecting their lateral fins. One of them, desperate, tried several times to bite one of their torturers. The dolphin got him once, but this only provoked the man to drop the cloth and the dolphin fell on the ground. The dolphin fell three more times.

But if the dropped dolphin was a martyr, nothing good awaited the other dolphins captured in the majestic Magdalena Bay: the "dolphinarium" is in the federal maritime zone, a few meters from the La Paz-to-Pichilingue highway and meets none of the conditions that are required for such sites. Neither does it have the services of a veterinary doctor.

We are talking about true punishment cells with a maximum depth of two meters, four or five meters wide, and twenty to thirty meters long. In addition, these immense animals find themselves exposed to people who throw objects and to the sewage that the La Concha Beach Resort hotel, which has interests in the "dolphinarium", discharges on the coast. The dolphins, which are very sensitive to noise, put up with the noise from the traffic along the coast, the motors from the boats that maraud the punishment cells, and the elevated decibels of a nearby discoteque.

Luna, the same as her companions, suffered so much from her capture, transportation, and captivity, that she refused to to eat, and they had to force-feed her liquids through a probe that reached into her digestive tract.

She was accustomed to obtaining her food (live fish) in family groups. In order to feed her they badly manhandled her to an improvised platform.

Dolphins in captivity live very few years. Their mortality rate is high and in most cases is due to the shock and trauma of their capture and to the environment where they live under conditions of stress and permanent hunger. In exchange for food they must perform diverse activities. Among them, a false education: swimming with children and adults that pay for it.

Luna died one month after her capture. She is survived by her two-year-old baby dolphin. Without maternal care it will be difficult for her baby to survive in captivity since a baby dolphin is very dependant on its mother.

In the name of the Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos de México group, the doctor Yolanda Alaniz Pasini recently put in front of the Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (Federal Attorney General of Environmental Protection) a public denouncement against "Fins: Dolphin Learning Center" and its "trainer", Javier Ahedo; the hotel La Concha Beach Resort, and the rest of the persons or businesses that are found responsible for inflicting acts of extreme cruelty upon the dolphins.

Alaniz also asks that an investigation be carried out of the capture of these specimens, the operation of the business in question and its definitive closure. The aforementioned Ahedo, who captured and transported the dolphins from Magdalena Bay to La Paz and who keeps them there, was previously the "trainer" at Xcaret (the "sacred paradise of nature") and at Xel-Ha, both prosperous businesses located on the coast of Quintana Roo.

Last February 5th I denounced here the irregularities of other "dolphinariums" at Cancún and Isla Mujeres. I fell short after seeing the video referred to here. I reaffirm that in all of this there is an enormous amount of complicity and corruption by the authorities responsible for safeguarding the health of our wildlife. Until when?

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