Sixteen dolphins displaced during Hurricane Katrina have been exported to a Kerzner International Group (Kerzner) facility in The Bahamas. The dolphins' former home, the Gulfport Oceanarium was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina and the dolphins had been housed temporarily in various facilities throughout the United States
This news is the latest twist in a sorry tale.
During November we received various reports that Kerzner had been scouring the world looking for dolphins to fill its new Atlantis resort being built in The Bahamas. In November, 2005, when it seemed that the Solomons Islands could be the target of Kernzer's efforts, AWI wrote to Kerzner urging it to rethink the plan to use dolphins at its facility in line with the recent establishment of Kerzner Marine Foundation.
In early December, we were elated when the Solomon Islands government announced a ban on exports of dolphins. Later that month a rumor surfaced that Kerzner was looking to obtain the former Gulfport Oceanarium dolphins.
AWI is no stranger to the Gulfport aquarium, operated by Marine Animal Productions and trading as Gulfport Oceanarium. The facility was notoriously badly run as evidenced by the actions of its owners before and during the Hurricane. Only a small number of its animals were removed before the Hurricane. The remaining animals were left to fend for themselves. Eight dolphins were swept into the Gulf of Mexico and swam free amid until they were found and taken to the US Navy Construction Battalion Center base in Gulfport.
In early January 2006, the rumors about the impending move were confirmed when we were told by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that the necessary CITES Appendix II export permits had been issued. The National Marine Fisheries Service also advised us that its' paperwork on the dolphins had been expedited to allow the transfer to go ahead. Sixteen of the seventeen dolphins were flown to The Bahamas. The seventeenth dolphin, Tessie, is reported to be too sick to travel and is intended to be sent the The Bahamas at a later date. Meantime, the Kerzner 'rescue' is big news in The Bahamas.
The conditions for the dolphins at the Kerzner facility appear to be far superior to those at the Gulfport Oceanarium, and we are pleased that the dolphins will remain together. However, we are very disappointed that there will be yet one more captive dolphin facility in The Bahamas.
We are determined that some good should come from this and together with colleagues in other groups, we have petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to issue an emergency Rule-Making requiring the establishment and maintenance of updated disaster response plans by all captive marine mammal facilities in the United States.