Stealing from the Solomons

As anarchy reigns in the South Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands, about 200 dolphins were cruelly captured for export to amusement parks in Mexico and possibly Asia. Despite an international outcry by animal protection and conservation organizations, 28 of the dolphins (13 females and 15 males) endured a terrifying day's journey to Parque Nizuc, an aquatic park in the resort city of Cancun, Mexico. The water park boasts an attraction allowing visitors to swim with the dolphins, which one review describes as including the indignity of a "foot push," a phrase describing a "ride on a pair of dolphins who lift you and push you through the water with their snouts."

What is a live dolphin worth? In the Solomons, rumors abound on the price these animals fetched—from $60 to $400 to the individuals who wrenched them from their life at sea. If they survive transport and "training," this investment can suddenly be worth $30,000 to $45,000 to the amusement park industry. Potential customers from Thailand and Taiwan purportedly have visited the holding area in the Solomon Islands, possibly to purchase the remaining animals. Because the sale of dolphins is such a lucrative enterprise, the dealers involved aren't particularly concerned if some of the animals die—which they have. Some of the dolphins reportedly died while in the holding pens awaiting shipment; one, horribly, after being attacked by a crocodile. Mexico's environmental agency confirmed that at least one dolphin already died at Parque Nizuc.

AWI is distressed that the Mexican authorities allowed the import to take place. The Solomon Islands is not a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which governs the global wildlife trade, and it is unclear what evidence was used by the authorities in the Solomon Islands to justify scientifically that this ill-advised capture and trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

This is a perfect example of the potentially devastating consequences when avaricious wildlife dealers are able to exploit loopholes in the oversight system and profit handsomely at the animals' expense. This wouldn't be possible without the exorbitant fees uneducated tourists are willing to pay to the aquatic parks that enslave the dolphins. Most of those paying to swim with these dolphins are Americans seeking a transcendental experience without a clue that their pursuit of vacation pleasure is financing such suffering.


Please write to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources in Mexico and respectfully request that he revoke the permits for the dolphins sent to Parque Nizuc and confiscate the animals. Letters should be addressed to:

The Honorable Victor Lichtinger
Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales
Periférico Sur No. 4209, 6° piso
Colonia Jardines en la Montaña
14210, México D.F., México
Fax: 011 52 56 28 06 44

Also contact the relevant authorities in the Solomon Islands and urge the immediate release of the remaining dolphins. Letters should be addressed to:

The Honorable Nelson Kile
Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources
P.O. Box G13
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Fax: 011 677 38730, Email: