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Largest ever capture of dolphins discovered and what you can do about it!

Friday 11th July 2003

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) expressed deep concern today for the welfare of up to 200 dolphins, which have been captured and confined in small pens by local fisherman in the Solomon Islands, north of Australia, as the result of a $400 bounty placed on their heads by a foreign business group.

Local fishermen have been rounding up animals by the dozen, which the syndicate is rumoured to be collecting and training for shipment overseas. A spokesperson for the Solomon Islands Civil Society Group has confirmed the number now stands at around 200 - the largest ever capture, and a fifth of the total number of dolphins currently kept in captivity worldwide.

According to local media reports, inexperienced fisherman have been taking the dolphins from the water and holding them in sea cages on the island of Gela, off the capital, Honiara. Many of those captured must travel for hours by open boat before reaching these cages; journeys that are excruciating for a water-borne creature, as its internal organs are slowly crushed by its immense weight.

As well as the questions surrounding the legality of this hunt, one captured dolphin has already been killed by a crocodile and WSPA experts expect that the death toll will rise from stress-induced illness, improper care and malnutrition as dolphins battle for the scarce food supply.

Richard O'Barry, WSPA Marine Mammal Specialist said, "Such a large number of animals is extremely difficult to manage, especially if there's a lack of medicine, equipment and staff. It appears that the animals are in very crowded conditions, which is also a concern because this can lead to stress and aggression. It takes thousands of pounds of fish - per day - to feed so many dolphins, which indicates the likelihood that they will be going hungry. The taking of so many dolphins from one small area is also unbelievably damaging to the local dolphins' gene pool."

Dolphins have long been a cherished part of the Solomon Islands' cultural heritage. Many of the animals are being taken from waters off the island of Malaita, where dolphin teeth are part of traditional bridal dowry ceremonies. And in other areas, it is taboo to harm a dolphin, based on the ancient belief that humans with mystical powers could transform themselves into sea creatures.

O'Barry adds, "To WSPA's knowledge this has never happened in the Solomon Islands before. Given the special status of dolphins in the local culture, I hope that the government will move soon to stop the dolphins-for-dollars scheme and end the suffering."

WSPA's network of veterinarians and marine mammal rescue experts is on stand-by to advise the government on this crisis.

What you can do about this crisis: Please write a short, respectful message asking the government to stop these captures immediately, and release the survivors back into the wild.

Honorable Nelson Kile
Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources
P.O. Box G13
Solomon Islands
Telephone: (+677) 39143 or (+677) 30107
Facsimile: (+677) 38730

Honorable David Holosivi
Ministry of Forestry, Environment and Conservation
P.O. Box G24
Solomon Islands
Telephone: (+677) 25848 or (+677) 22453
Facsimile: (+677) 22825

Richard O'Barry
Marine Mammal Specialist
World Society for the Protection of Animals.
34 Deloss Street, Framingham, MA 01702 USA
Tel: (305) 668-1619
Fax: (305) 668-1619