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Activists to file charges over death of dolphin shipped to Singapore

Animal welfare advocates light candles as they display the image of a dolphin named ‘Wen-wen,’ who allegedly died while in transit to Singapore last week, during a news conference in Quezon City yesterday. BOY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - Environment and animal rights activists plan to file charges against the people responsible for the death of one of the 25 dolphins recently shipped from Ocean Adventure in Subic, Zambales to Singapore.

“We are studying possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act following the death of one of the dolphins,” said lawyer Mel Velasco, counsel of petitioners Earth Island Institute (EII), Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), and CARA Welfare Philippines which earlier tried to block the transport of the dolphins.

In a press briefing in Quezon City yesterday, representatives of the three groups expressed outrage over the death of one of the dolphins while they were being transported to Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) in Singapore.

“Wen-Wen, a 10-year-old male dolphin, died en route to Singapore despite their assurances that there were experts on the plane,” EII regional director Trixie Concepcion announced.

“Because of their haste to fly the animals out of the country, one dolphin died,” she added.

PAWS director Anna Cabrera likewise criticized the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for failing to provide information about the dolphins.

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“We’ve been asking the DA and BFAR about the situation of the dolphins but we didn’t get a response,” said Cabrera. “All this time, we were in the court hearings, we didn’t know that they are already exporting the dolphins.”

Cabrera accused the agencies of negligence prior to the transport of the dolphins.

“BFAR did not conduct a welfare check, a health check of the animals before they left,” she said. “They just counted the animals.”

Last month, the three groups asked a Quezon City court to order the DA, BFAR, and RWS to stop the transport of the 25 dolphins that were imported into the Philippines from the Solomon Islands in 2008, 2009, and 2011.

A 72-hour Temporary Environment Protection Order (TEPO) was initially issued on Oct. 12.

After the order expired, however, Quezon City Judge Evangeline Marigomen of Branch 101 decided not to re-issue another one, saying that the “petitioners have not proved any violation of law committed by the concerned government agencies.”

The groups have filed a motion for reconsideration, which has yet to be resolved.

After learning of the transport of the 11 dolphins last week, the petitioners filed a very urgent motion and manifestation urging the court to stop any move to re-export the remaining dolphins.

They also asked the court to cite for indirect contempt all those who were responsible for the re-export of the first batch of dolphins.

“They moved the dolphins despite the urgent motion that we filed last week,” Velasco said. “This is a brazen disregard of the judicial system.”

Velasco noted that with the transport of the dolphins, the case that they filed against DA, BFAR, and RWS is now moot and academic.

“With their departure, the Philippines now has no jurisdiction over the dolphins,” he said, adding that they would pursue the contempt charges to hold those who were responsible accountable.

The recent development may lead to further violation of the rights of endangered animals, said Velasco.

“We are saddened with state of environmental justice here in the country,” she said. “The judiciary was not given a chance to act on the case.”

The activists said that the harvest of the dolphins from the Solomon Islands was not sustainable and in violation of the Wildlife Conservation and Resources Act.

Louis Ng, chief executive of environmental group ACRES, said that public outrage in Singapore over the death of the dolphin is very high.

“We urge Resorts World not to give us the dolphins but to help in their rehabilitation so that they can be released back to the wild,” he said, adding that they will hold a candle lighting activity on Sunday to condemn the incident.

Cabrera said that a similar activity would be held here in the country also on Sunday.

“They’re citizens of the world. They belong to our children, our children’s children. They don’t belong to us,” she said, referring to the dolphins.

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