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  Straits Times Forum 28 Oct 06
No critical need to keep whales prisoners
Letter from Dudley Au

I REFER to the report, 'Activists against having a whale of a time' (ST, Oct 26), where Kerzner International and Genting International, bidders for the Sentosa integrated resort, proposed having whale sharks in captivity as star attractions.

The answer from Mr Jeff Jouett, Dolphin Quest's chief executive, was that 'almost everything we know today about dolphins and whales has been leamt at aquariums and oceanariums'.

However, what is learnt cannot negate the fact that the animals' natural lifespans are cut short in captivity.

It appears that research is important for knowledge, as long as the human animal's life is not cut short.

This has always been the permutation where superior intelligence (of a species) conveys 'rights'. If the curiosity was intense enough and the level of ambition of sufficient influence, there would be no hesitation to commit experimental acts for the good of humanity and the furtherance of science.

This is what Mr Jouett means, if we take away the sugar coating of his euphemisms.

Whales are huge animals in general and for such large animals thousands of miles of space are required to live a natural life as nature designed. The vast ocean is such a natural habitat and when man takes it upon himself to change the environment and curtail the whales' or dolphins' space there is the inevitable cut in the lifespan, as the animal suffers in some way or other.

Take the blue whale, for example. It is approximately 30m in length and over 200 tonnes in weight. Its tongue weighs as much as an elephant and its heart is as huge as a car. Some of its blood vessels are so wide that a man could swim in them. Its tail is as wide as a small aircraft's wings.

This animal needs the ocean to satisfy its psychological and physiological needs. It cruises at 20 knots due to its streamlined shape and consumes a crustacean (krill) only a few centimetres long at the rate of approximately 40 million krill a day.

What nature designed for the space it had in mind is now arbitrarily curtailed by man.

Captivity is something we should not freely bestow, at our pleasure, on a species which we consider inferior.

If there is no critical need to keep it a prisoner, why make it a prisoner?

Or, do we come to this decision because might is right, and absolute might (over the whales and dolphins) has corrupted us?

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