By Environmental News Network
Dolphin conservationist Richard O'Barry, the former
trainer of television's famous dolphin Flipper, has just completed a
real-life dolphin rescue, saving two abused dolphins in Guatemala.
Working as a rescuer with the World Society for the
Protection of Animals (WSPA), O'Barry supervised the move of bottlenose
dolphins Ariel and Turbo to Guatemala's Manavique Point last week. He
and a rehabilitation team now aim to restore the abused dolphins to the
wild ocean, a process expected to take about two months.
The two dolphins were kept in a filthy makeshift pool on
a hillside near Antigua City, Guatemala, as part of a traveling dolphin
spectacle known as Mundo Marino,
based in Venezuela. They were abandoned by their trainers earlier this
month after questions about possible permit violations at the facility
arose. The WSPA says that the trainers left with most of the water
filtration equipment, making rescue difficult and the death of the
starving dolphins almost inevitable.
The WSPA rescued the animals on July 12 and placed them
in a sea pen built by WSPA's Luis Carlos Sarmiento to start a period of
rehabilitation before their eventual return to the sea. The rescue
itself was organized by WSPA's Latin American team of Gerardo Huertas,
Juan Carlos Murillo, and O'Barry.
O'Barry says, "When WSPA first rushed to Guatemala to
try and save Ariel and Turbo, we weren't sure if they were going to make
it. They were floating in their own excrement and hadn't eaten for days.
It seemed as if their pen would become their tomb."
WSPA veterinarian Dr. Juan Carlos Murillo said, "Ariel
and Turbo were in bad shape when we got to them. They had sores all over
their bodies and in their mouths and were suffering from kidney and
respiratory infections. And one of the dolphins had a huge cut on the
top of his head where he was hit by his trainer."
Huertas, WSPA regional director for Latin America said
just keeping the dolphins alive was a major challenge. "One of our top
priorities was to change the disgusting water that was making the
dolphins so sick. This meant arranging a caravan of 35 trucks to bring
in fresh water and 300 sacks of salt. We had to repeat this maneuver
several times. The dolphins also got special around-the-clock veterinary
care, and their malnourished bodies required 50 pounds of fish per day."
Guatemala Environmental Ministry officials awarded
custody of the two marine mammals to WSPA, and they were moved to the
WSPA-built rehabilitation site at isolated Manavique Point. The more
time the dolphins spent out of the water, the more dangerous it was for
Due to death threats against the rescuers, military and
police personnel were on hand to escort the transport trucks to the
airport in Guatemala City. Laughs Huertas, "We got stuck in the morning
rush-hour traffic, and drivers refused to yield to the convoy. But when
people noticed the military sharpshooter on top of the main truck, they
moved out of our way pretty quickly!"
Safely packed in transport boxes filled with ice and
water to keep them cool and comforted by the WSPA team, Ariel and Turbo
were loaded on to a military transport plane in Guatemala City for the
first leg of their trip to Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean coast. From
there, a helicopter waited to take the dolphins to their final
destination at Manavique Point. Forced to make a pinpoint landing on a
small sandbar that is only exposed during low tide, the helicopter
touched down mere feet from the temporary enclosure.
Ariel was the first to arrive. Immediately after she was
placed in the sea pen, a pod of wild dolphins showed up by the other
side of the pen's net to greet the new dolphins. Turbo followed a few
minutes later and together they disappeared into the depths.
O'Barry said, "Now that the dolphins are free from the
burden of having to perform for humans, they've made a remarkable
recovery. It won't be long before they're free to swim the oceans, as
dolphins should be."
Based in the United Kingdom and the United States, the
WSPA has more than 300 member societies in 80 countries around the
world. It has consultative status to the United Nations and the Council
Copyright 2001, Environmental News Network
Go on to Home On The
Return to 1 August 2001 Issue
Return to Newsletters
** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this
not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the
copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright
Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright