MANILA, Philippines—The furor over the death of a dolphin being transported from the Philippines to Singapore may have been excessive, said a theme park official whose facility at the Subic Bay Freeport housed the animals before their transfer to Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) last week.
“While the loss of Wen Wen was a sad event, attacks upon the quality of care provided by RWS are unfounded. In my opinion, the level of care was excellent,” said Timothy Desmond, president of Ocean Adventure, in a statement.
Wen Wen was one of 25 dolphins shipped to a Singapore oceanarium despite protests from activists. The male dolphin, about 10 years old, died less than an hour before the plane carrying it landed in Singapore on Thursday.
Desmond urged animal welfare advocates to look at the facts surrounding the incident.
“Some facts can provide some perspective. The loss of one animal over four years in a population of 25 animals is one of the lowest mortality rates recorded in the wild or in display facilities,” he said.
He said “peer reviewed science” showed that a wild population of 25 dolphins would lose between four and five animals due to various causes over a four-year span.
“The average life span of the best studied, best protected population of wild dolphins is 21 years. This data was collected in [marine mammal researcher] Dr. Randy Wells’ study of over 300 dolphins off the Tampa, Florida, coast over a span 40 years. In that population, based on the data, there would be one mortality per year for every 25 animals,” Desmond said.
He said RWS’ record of one mortality in four years was “far better than that.”
He described the animal welfare advocates’ “assertions of premature mortality due to poor care” as a “self-serving invention which activists are using to whip up support and funds.”
Desmond said he had no information about the disease or other health issues that may have affected Wen Wen.
“However, despite a thorough pretransport check, it is possible that conditions can be present that can’t be detected. It is not common but it does happen. Everyone who has ever undergone surgery remembers the lecture on the risks that the doctor gives. Those risks exist because, even given advanced human technology, doctors can’t see everything going on inside the body of their patient before surgery,” said Desmond.
“Finally, with people and animals, death is a part of life. In the wild, dolphins and all wild animals die cruel deaths by our standards,” he said.
“Wen Wen’s death, while a loss to the people and animals that knew him, is no indication of wrongdoing on RWS’ part. Objective evaluation of its track record indicates exactly the opposite,” said Desmond.
Animal welfare activists, citing the death of Wen Wen, have threatened to file criminal charges against RWS for violation of the Animal Welfare Act and for disregarding Philippine courts.
The activists also faulted the government for giving the go-signal for the flight of the dolphins despite their pending appeal in a local court to stop it.
In October, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court issued a 72-hour temporary environment protection order preventing the reexport of the dolphins in the holding facilities of Ocean Adventure. The hold order, however, was not renewed.