Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. V No. 3 July 1996


Freedom, Justice, and Sabotage

By William Rossiter


Something must be said about the two sabotaged dolphin rehabilitation-for- release projects in Florida. The facts alone would require more space than we have, the issues and controversies would fill a book, and our disgust and frustration need even more space. Please contact CSI if you really want more details.

Bogie and a very pregnant Bacall are swimming free in the Indian River, Florida, apparently mingling with resident dolphins. They swam away from their Florida Keys rehabilitation pen May 16th, the night before they would have been freeze branded for permanent identification; someone secretly cut a hole in the net and disabled the project's boat. There is a very good chance that these dolphins and hopefully the calf will survive; but the survival of the concept of rehabilitating excess captive dolphins for release in the wild may not. That was the intention of the project.

Buck, Luther and Jake are back in U.S. Navy tanks in San Diego, having been subjected to a problematic rehabilitation effort on Sugarloaf Key. With Jake sick, Buck and Luther were released on May 23rd and were recaptured within two weeks with the assistance of NMFS, the Navy, and a captive facility. Buck was reputedly 100 pounds under normal weight, and both had demonstrated that they were unable or unwilling to try to live in the wild. Jake was removed from Sugarloaf June 7th, after a display license was at long last suspended due to repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The Navy did not want these dolphins back, and their future is uncertain. In spite of the violations Sugar remains secluded and forgotten at Sugarloaf, but her mind snapped long ago. She has been unresponsive and unaware for years. Molly remains as well, alone, having not been included in the effort that included Bogie and Bacall, or the release of the Navy dolphins.

Everyone involved with these efforts purported to put the dolphins first; to truly care about their welfare. Everyone involved had differing interpretations of what this meant, and in the end a very few did it their own way. Everyone involved has suffered, particularly the dolphins. In the wake of vanishing reputations and funds, fingers pointed in every direction to assign blame just short of provoking lawsuits. But the point is that the well-intentioned and eagerly sought effort to rehabilitate and release surplus captive cetaceans has been severely handicapped. CSI remains committed to help rebuild the effort, for its practical as well as ethical motives.


Go to next article: 1996 CSI Whale Watch Report or: Table of Contents.

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