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  Yahoo News 27 Oct 07
Pacific dolphins adapt to life at Dubai hotel

CanWest News Service 19 Oct 07
Dolphin airlift enrages environmentalists
Randy Boswell

Metro News 19 Oct 07
Dubai imports 28 dolphins for marine extravaganza on artificial island

Associated Press

Yahoo News 17 Oct 07
Controversial dolphin exports go ahead in Solomon Islands

Yahoo News 17 Oct 07
3 dolphins found dead in Solomon Islands
By George Herming, Associated Press Writer

Yahoo News 12 Oct 07
Solomon Islands to export 30 dolphins to Dubai


Up to 30 live dolphins will be exported from the tiny Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands to the Middle East next week, four years after the last such shipment to Mexico caused international outrage.

The Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre and Exporters Limited said Friday that the dolphins would be collected from the company's pens on the island of Gavutu and flown to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

"They will be flown on two DC-10s that are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday," said company director Robert Satu.

Several international conservation groups including the San Francisco-based Earth Islands Institute have decried the decision by the government in Honiara to allow the resumption of the live dolphin trade.

The Solomon Islands banned the practice in 2003 following the outcry over the shipment of dolphins to Mexico.

But Satu took the government to court, claiming the ban was illegal, and won in a landmark ruling earlier this year.

The government -- which has changed since the last shipment in 2003 -- has now given the trade its blessing and a high-level delegation will be in Dubai to mark the arrival of the dolphins next week.

Satu said the company had hired a Dubai firm to provide extra security for the animals' arrival, in a bid to deter conservationists from staging any protests or trying to block the shipments.

Although Satu refused to say how much the sale was worth, he said both his company and the government would reap massive rewards.

"It's big -- bigger than gold or logging," said Satu.

The logging industry is the main source of income in the Solomon Islands, but forests are being cut down at unsustainable levels.

The tiny Pacific country's central bank has estimated that the logging industry could collapse within five years.

Satu said the dolphin trade could help promote economic development, with local communities establishing their own dolphin farms.

"We've already created the market -- they could just follow," he said.

Yahoo News 17 Oct 07
Controversial dolphin exports go ahead in Solomon Islands

A company in the Solomon Islands exported 28 live dolphins to the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, four years after the government halted the trade when such a shipment caused international outrage.

The dolphins were taken amid tight security to Honiara from their holding pens on an outlying island and then escorted by police to two cargo planes for the 30-hour journey to Dubai.

No protesters blocked the shipment, though several international conservation groups have decried the decision by the government to allow the resumption of the live dolphin trade, saying it is inhumane.

Lawrence Makili, a director of the San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute, said photos published this week showing dolphin carcasses on the side of a road leading to the pens were a sign the animals were under stress.

"What concerns me is that these animals died before being shipped out," he said. "They're under stress before even getting on the plane."

On Wednesday, security guards kept sightseers away from the dolphins, with only a few journalists allowed to film the loading.

Robert Satu, a company director of the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre and Exporters Limited, said the dolphin sale was done with the approval of the United Arab Emirates and Solomon Islands governments.

The tiny Pacific nation had banned the trade in live dolphins in 2003 following an outcry over a shipment to Mexico.

But Satu took the government to court, claiming the ban was illegal, and won in a landmark ruling earlier this year.

The government -- which has changed since the shipments were stopped -- has now given the trade its blessing and a high-level delegation will be in Dubai to mark the dolphins' arrival.

A bid by the Earth Island Institute to stop the flight was rejected by the the Solomon Islands High Court, which said there was insufficient evidence to support the group's claim that the exports were inhumane.

The logging industry is the main source of income in the Solomon Islands, but forests are being cut down at unsustainable levels.

Satu has said the dolphin trade could help promote economic development and there were plans to export dolphins to other parts of the world.

Yahoo News 17 Oct 07
3 dolphins found dead in Solomon Islands
By George Herming, Associated Press Writer

The carcasses of three bottlenose dolphins including a calf were found dumped near a holding pen in the Solomon Islands where controversial exports of the mammals were planned. The exporting company on Wednesday denied any knowledge.

The partly decomposed bodies of the dolphins, which were torn open, apparently by stray dogs, were found on Tuesday night lying in the open near a coastal garbage dump site near the capital, Honiara.

Solomon Island Marine Mammal Education Center and Exporters Ltd. is preparing to airlift 28 live bottlenose dolphins to an aquatic park in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.

Company director Robert Satu said on Tuesday the dolphins are being held in pens on Gavutu Island near the capital awaiting the arrival of two DC-10 aircraft from Dubai.

He said loading the animals would begin after the tropical sun had set on Wednesday, and that the animals would be treated with "great care" during the journey.

Satu refused to comment on the discovery of the mammals' bodies on Wednesday.

"I'm not aware of anything like that," he told The Associated Press.

Pacific Director of the San Francisco-based group, Earth Island Institute, Lawrence Makili, said the discovery of the dead dolphins constituted "clear evidence" that they had been mistreated.

Solomon Islands banned the live dolphin export trade in 2003 following an outcry over a consignment of 28 bottlenose dolphins to an aquatic park in Mexico. Activists claim at least nine of the dolphins died in Mexico.

Satu, who was involved in the exports to Mexico, claimed the ban was illegal and won a landmark court ruling last December that paved the way for dolphin exports to resume.

After the court ruling, the government was swift to change its position on the trade.

Fisheries Minister Nollen Leni has said the government would now encourage the capture and sale of up to 100 bottlenose dolphins a year for export, noting that water parks would pay tens of thousands of dollars (euros) for a trained dolphin.

A legal bid by Makili's group to overturn the export of the current consignment failed in the High Court on Tuesday.

The planes due to take the dolphins to Dubai arrived at Honiara's Henderson Field airport on Tuesday night, Satu was reported as saying in the Island Sun newspaper.

A local television crew was barred from filming the planes' arrival, with a flight official chasing away the TV camera crew, citing security reasons.

Satu was quoted as saying his company was paid SBD$6 million dollars (US$769,000; euro543,000) for the first dolphin shipment to Mexico, adding "we will get more than that amount in this round of exports."

International pressure on Solomon Islands over the exports also resumed Wednesday.

New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter expressed grave concerns over the resumption of live dolphin exports in a letter to Mark Kemakeza, Solomon Islands forests, environment and conservation minister.

Carter said he had reminded the Solomons government of its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITIES, which says a country exporting wild animals must be able to show it will not be detrimental to the survival of the species.

"Most New Zealanders would be appalled at the export of live dolphins, a trade that requires the animals to be rounded up, kept in pens and then loaded into aircraft," he said.

CanWest News Service 19 Oct 07
Dolphin airlift enrages environmentalists
Randy Boswell

A controversial Canadian dolphin broker is at the centre of an animal-rights uproar in the South Pacific after his marine mammal "education centre" in the Solomon Islands sent two planeloads of live dolphins to a private aquarium in Dubai despite protests by environmentalists and objections from the Australian government.

Chris Porter, a former Vancouver Aquarium trainer, has become a prime target for the outrage of wildlife advocates around the world since setting up a dolphin-export business five years ago in the Solomons, a politically volatile group of islands in Melanesia, about 2,000 kilometres northeast of Australia.

Porter, 37, has been cast as a "dolphin slave trader" by his harshest critics but defended by Solomon Islands officials as a humane wildlife expert intent on boosting the developing country's economic prospects and saving dolphins from hunters.

The issue became even more heated this week after the reported discovery of several dolphin carcasses in the ocean near holding pens being used for the transfer to Dubai.

"The Solomon Islands will become a pariah around the world because of the damage they are doing to themselves with this vile trade," said David Phillips, director of the San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute, which failed in a legal bid to block the dolphin shipment to Dubai.

Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters this week that Canberra "does not support any commercial export of cetaceans. I am, therefore, concerned about reports of the export of dolphins from the Solomon Islands."

But despite a flood of complaints to its offices in Geneva, CITES -- the international body that regulates the global trade of endangered plants and animals -- said this week it had no reason to stop the shipment and no proof that Porter's company was harming dolphin populations in the Solomons.

"The trade in live dolphins continues to attract considerable attention and much negative comment from NGOs, the general public and a number of parties to CITES," secretary-general Willem Wijnstekers said in a statement issued this week.

He said CITES is reviewing protocols used to determine whether certain animal sales are ecologically harmful, but added the organization "has received no evidence to demonstrate that trade which is now taking place, or is intended to take place, will have a detrimental impact upon wild dolphin populations."

Porter has not commented directly on the latest controversy. But an official with the exporter, Robert Satu, told Australian media that the Dubai-bound dolphins were treated with "great care" and that he was "not aware" of any animal deaths connected with the company's business.

Porter's previous deals to ship dolphins to buyers in Mexico in 2003 and the Bahamas in 2005 each sparked an international outcry, scuttling the Bahamian proposal and forcing the Solomon government to enact a ban on any exports for several years amid threats of a worldwide boycott of the country's tuna industry.

But with the ban recently lifted by a new government eager to promote dolphin exports, Porter was permitted this week to complete an estimated $1-million deal with Dubai and send about 30 of the animals -- each worth some $30,000 -- on a 30-hour flight for delivery to a resort hotel in the oil-rich Middle East emirate.

Porter first came under fire in 2003 after orchestrating the capture of about 100 dolphins off the Solomons in what has been described as one of the largest roundups of the creatures to ever take place.

Although dolphins are plentiful in the region and routinely hunted, a report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature concluded at the time that "this episode of live-capture was undertaken with little or no serious investment in assessing the conservation implications for the affected population."

Critics have said that political instability in the Solomon Islands means dolphins cannot be humanely managed and that Porter's colony of captives should be returned to the wild.

Porter has insisted that he is offering an "alternative" option for some dolphins in a country with a rich tradition of killing the animals for their meat and their teeth, which are cherished ceremonial objects.

"My dream is to create a breeding centre for dolphins that also serves as a resort where guests have the opportunity to spend unlimited time learning and being close with dolphins," Porter told The Solomon Times in June.

"I became intrigued by the hunting tradition and extremely excited about the opportunity to work together with these specialized hunters and try to work out a live alternative use for dolphins which maintains the cultural values of utilization of the dolphins but keeps the dolphins alive and which brings far greater economic value to the community as a whole."

Metro News 19 Oct 07
Dubai imports 28 dolphins for marine extravaganza on artificial island

Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The artificial islands of this Gulf city-state are at the centre of yet another environmental controversy after a marine resort confirmed it received 28 live bottlenose dolphins from the Solomon Islands amid protests from environmental groups.

The Kerzner Istithmar company, the owner of the Atlantis marine project, Thursday announced the development of a world-class dolphin program on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

Environmental groups loudly protested the departure of two planes Wednesday from the Pacific islands' capital Honiara despite export company's director Robert Satu's assurance that dolphins would be looked after with "great care" during their long journey to Dubai.

The company did not describe the condition of the mammals after a 30-hour flight and the Kerzner representatives were not reachable for comment Thursday.

As the mammals were being loaded onto their planes in the Solomon Islands, three dead dolphins were found near the firm's holding pens outside the capital, Honiara.

Satu on Wednesday denied any knowledge of dead dolphins.

Lawrence Makili, Pacific director of the San Francisco-based group Earth Island Institute, said the discovery of the dead dolphins constituted "clear evidence" that they had been mistreated.

Solomons' Fisheries Minister Nollen Leni defended the decision to allow the exports, accusing animal welfare groups of trying to block the country's "new million dollar" industry.

Leni said each dolphin goes for $200,000 on the Dubai market.

Kerzner Istithmar defended the legality of dolphin's purchase and the safety of their transport, saying that "both the Dubai and Solomon Islands governments enforce strict regulation of exports in compliance with all international standards."

The dolphins' new habitat on Dubai's palm tree-shaped island complex will be called the Dolphin Bay. It is still under construction and scheduled to be completed sometime next year.

Four years into construction, the Palm project as well as two other massive artificial island developments - led by Dubai government-owned company Nakheel - have been repeatedly criticized by environmental agencies from across the globe for changing sea currents, damaging coral reef and marring the sea view from Dubai's natural beach.

Yahoo News 27 Oct 07
Pacific dolphins adapt to life at Dubai hotel

Twenty-eight dolphins from the South Pacific, flown to the Gulf emirate of Dubai this week despite opposition from wildlife groups, are adapting to their new home in a luxury hotel on a man-made island, the Gulf News reported on Saturday.

The five-star Palm Atlantis Hotel bought the wild bottlenose dolphins from the Solomon Islands, the paper reported, despite several international conservation groups decrying the decision by its government to allow the resumption of the live dolphin trade, saying it is inhumane.

Management at the hotel, located on the giant Palm Jumeirah artificial island on the Dubai coast, told the paper the welfare of the dolphins was paramount.

"Bottlenose dolphins are not an endangered species so it is not a problem. They will get good healthcare and good food," said Frank Murru, chief marine officer at the hotel's parent company, Kerzner International.

The dolphins are being kept is seven, three-metre (almost 10-feet) deep pools and are being acclimatised to humans and trained to interact with hotel guests and visitors, the English language daily reported.

But Murru told the paper the dolphins would not be involved in any shows at the hotel, which is due to open next year, but rather kept in large ocean-like habitats outdoors.

Robert Satu, a director of Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre and Exporters Limited, earlier said the dolphin sale was done with the approval of the United Arab Emirates and Solomon Islands governments.

The tiny Pacific nation had banned the trade in live dolphins in 2003 following an outcry over a shipment to Mexico. But Satu took the government to court, claiming the ban was illegal, and won in a ruling earlier this year.

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