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Dolphin’s passing leaves questions

By Alexandre Da Silva - Ka Leo News Editor

16th January 2004

Phoenix, a 27-year-old female Atlantic bottlenose dolphin from the University of Hawaii's Marine Mammal Laboratory at Kewalo Basin Marine Sanctuary, died last Saturday.

The animal's death came a little over two months after another 27-year-old female dolphin at the lab, Akeakamai, was put to sleep by doctors who couldn't cure the animal's mouth cancer.

Phoenix and her partner, Akeakamai, or "lover of wisdom," were brought to UH's lab from the Gulf of Mexico 25 years ago to provide greater insight about the mammal's communication and cognitive responses.

A male dolphin named Hiapo, or "first born male," is now the lab's only remaining dolphin.

Although a tumour also was sprouting inside Phoenix's mouth, no link between the two types of cancer has been discovered yet, according to UH-Manoa Spokesman Jim Manke. The necropsies that should identify the main cause of both the dolphins' deaths are still pending.

Cathy Goeggel, director of research and investigation for Animal Rights Hawai'i, is still waiting for a copy of Akeakamai's final necropsy, which she requested 12 days after the animal died.

"We are concerned about the one remaining dolphin," said Goggel, who joined dozens of protestors wanting to free the three dolphins from captivity in 2002.

Frank Perkins, UH Assistant Vice President for Research and Graduate Education, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, but wrote in a fax sent to Goeggel last Sunday that he would send her a copy of Akeakamai's necropsy results as soon as the document is available.

During 2002's protest, it was reported in the Honolulu-Star Bulletin that Ken LeVasser, an independent researcher who also was convicted of first degree theft for freeing two dolphins from the lab in 1977, cited a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that noted that the Kewalo lab failed to comply with some regulations. But Kewalo's Laboratory Director Louis Herman said the issues had been addressed.