Wen Wen the dolphin dead, age 10

From ‘Dolphin at RWS dies en route to Singapore’, 22 Nov 2012, article in Today online.

Wen Wen, one of the 25 dolphins at Resorts World at Sentosa, died en route to Singapore today.

Marine Life Park has issued the following statement:

We are deeply saddened that Wen Wen, one of our 25 dolphins, died en route to Singapore today. Wen Wen, a male dolphin estimated to be ten years old, died suddenly less than an hour into landing during the three-hour flight. Two marine mammal veterinarians and eight marine mammal specialists accompanying and monitoring the 11 dolphins on the flight responded with emergency medical treatment.

…The Marine Life Park’s four veterinarians have a combined experience of successfully transporting more than 500 marine mammals. The same veterinary team, with a collective experience with marine mammals of over 70 years, as well as the team of marine mammal specialists on the flight, successfully completed our dolphins’ transport to Subic Bay and the recent transport of our 14 dolphins to Singapore.

A necropsy was performed this morning in the presence of AVA officers. Over the next few weeks, further laboratory tests will be conducted in Singapore and the United States to assess any contributing factors.

…Wen Wen was a sociable dolphin that survived a shark attack in the wild and had the scars of a shark bite on his torso. Wen Wen and his trainer had developed a strong bond during their four years together. He will be sorely missed.

Bottlenose dolphins like Wen Wen can live up to 40 years, but if you’re going to spend the rest of your years living the Flipper lifestyle entertaining kids you would want to end your misery early too. The Marine Life Park was quick to emphasise the amount of research and dedicated expert care into ensuring the well being of their stars, as well as hinting that Wen Wen would have been shark fodder if he had not been ‘saved’ from the atrocities of the wild. What the RWS spokespeople fail to mention is how Wen Wen and his Seaworld inmates got into this mess in the first place, or how heavily invested we are in this dolphin-napping operation to not back out now.

27 bottlenose dolphins were captured off the Solomon Islands, of which 25 survived captivity in the Phillippines waiting to be shipped to Singapore (2 died in Langkawi in 2010 following a bacterial infection). They were KIDNAPPED, not invited, adopted, rescued from Jaws nor born out of Dolphin World already equipped with hoop-jumping abilities. In 2009, Senator Jorge Ordorica of Mexico wrote a letter to then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan to think twice about dolphin shows after a dozen died within 5 years of their transport to a Cancun water park. One died from transport-related stress, which is deemed a ‘common occurrence’ and looks very much like what Wen Wen succumbed to in this case. Mexico then proceeded to ban all dealings with cetaceans for entertainment purposes, while our authorities decided to go ahead with its gaudy, expensive oceanarium circus anyway, which the way I see it, was planned to preserve the allure of IRs in the event of loss of interest in the casinos.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had dolphins suffering or dying in captivity. In 2003, an endangered pink dolphin from Sentosa’s Dolphin Lagoon named Jumbo had to have 11 teeth EXTRACTED due to wear and tear, apparently from fighting with another male captive. Earlier in 2001, another pink dolphin Namtam died of acute gastritis. The same Namtam, along with another female named Pann, also had to deal with a tragic miscarriage barely a year earlier. When we first set up the Dolphin Lagoon in the late nineties, the AVA made a ‘clerical error’ in reporting the acquired animals as ‘bred in captivity’ when some were in fact caught from the wild. The SPCA in 2010 judged the size of  the dolphin enclosure at Underwater World to be that of a ‘swimming pool’, too small to accommodate the six dolphins, while the company insisted that it surpassed guidelines. That’s like saying Bedok Reservoir is comfortable enough for the Loch Ness monster.

All this for the sake of a wet and wild showcase that is as campy as training Kai Kai and Jia Jia to ride unicycles while holding paws. You can make one dolphin do more tricks with a football than the entire Lions squad, or get cosy with international superstars like Mariah Carey in 2000. The singer reportedly refused to get off her plane like a spoilt brat while demanding to frolic with the Sentosa darlings.

Mimi emancipated

So it’s not just ‘homesickness’ that dolphins have to deal with while keeping our kids entertained. They fight, they suffer strange diseases and they deliver stillborns. According to a Today writer and a fan of ‘The Cove’, more than half of all captured dolphins die within two years of captivity. But you could argue that animals die prematurely and horribly in captivity all the time, in the zoo, or a lab and that it’s easy to get riled up about dolphins because they’re ‘almost human’. This Wen Wen incident, like shark’s fin soup, will be divided between animal lovers and people accusing animal lovers of being hypocrites. Nobody goes to the aid of the guinea pig getting paralysed in a botched experiment, or the monkey forced to wear a tutu for a busking hobo. ACRES was deathly silent about the thousands of sheep flown here for ritual korban slaughter. Maybe sheep just aren’t smiley enough.

Putting aside arguments from a compassionate standpoint or how sentient dolphins really are compared to bunnies in a cage, or whether they’re really smiling or being ironic when they splash about to Katy Perry music, perhaps we should talk about ‘necessity’ instead. Do we need this so much that we’re willing to let some animals suffer for it? Is science worth drilling a monkey’s brain for? How about tourism dollars? Seeing a child with terminal illness or the disabled pet a dolphin on the nose? Will Mariah Carey ever set foot on our shores again without dolphins? What can I get out of Marine Life Park that I won’t out of National Geographic on cable? Is there anything less controversial that I can use to replace vulnerable cetaceans? A giant squid that predicts football results perhaps?

If we can achieve the drastic result of banning sharks’ fin from supermarkets and hotels, we can also put pressure on unnecessary ‘dolphinariums’ that really serve to bolster casino earnings and pander to megastar fantasy rather than to ‘educate’ the public or contribute to ‘conversation efforts’. If 100,000 petitioners won’t do the trick, hopefully one shocking, and jarringly for RWS – embarrassing, loss of life would sound the death knell of this aquatic circus-prison once and for all. As I would turn to our PM Lee and say, losing a Dolphin Park  is not the ‘be-all and end-all’ of the entertainment/tourist/marine industry. A backflip at this point of the project and slowly re-introducing the animals back into the wild may well be the respectable thing to do without compromising the rest of the less adorable marine attractions. The IRs are already contributing to human suffering, let’s not drag other mammals into our moral decline too.

Advertisements

One Response

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: