J.D. van der
Table of contents
Joe and Rosie
Echo and Misha
Into the Blue: Rocky, Missie and Silver
| Atlantis Marine Park dolphins
Bogie and Bacall
Buck, Luther and Jake
Ariel and Turbo
Bogie and Bacall (2 females) came from the Ocean Reef Club, along with the much older dolphin Molly. They were moved to a lagoon type enclosure on Sugarloaf Key in southern Florida, the Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary, in August 1994 by the Welcome Home Project. The Welcome Home Project was a newly established group, led by Joe Roberts. The Dolphin Sanctuary was situated behind the Sugarloaf Lodge, which had a resident captive dolphin, Sugar Good, in a separate enclosure (Sugar has been there since 1968 and has no contact with any of the dolphins in the Sanctuary). The Sanctuary was owned and run by Lloyd Good III, the son of the owner of the Sugarloaf Lodge. Molly was considered to be unsuitable for release, because of her advanced age. Plans were made to release Bogie and Bacall in the Indian River, in the general area from which they were originally taken, back in 1988. Originally the Sugarloaf Sanctuary and the Welcome Home Project were a joint venture of the Dolphin Alliance, headed by Joe Roberts, and Ric O'Barry. From the start, animal rights activist Rick Trout was involved. The introduction of O'Barry created a lot of friction and Roberts, Trout and O'Barry have been fighting battles in the press. The animals have been caught in the middle of this.
In November 1994, 3 former Navy dolphins (Luther, Buck and Jake) arrived at the Sanctuary. This move was initiated by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). On June 5, 1995, Lloyd Good dropped the gates of the Sanctuary and released the 3 Navy dolphins. They never left the lagoon. Next Good let Luther enter Bogie and Bacall's enclosure. As a result, both were impregnated. On August 30, the Dolphin Alliance transported Bogie and Bacall from the Sugarloaf Sanctuary to a halfway house in Melbourne, Florida (in the Indian River). At that point, the HSUS broke with the Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary and joined forces with the Welcome Home Project. Blood samples taken on that day revealed that both dolphins were indeed pregnant and ultrasound examinations later confirmed this. This complicated the release efforts, especially since they were impregnated by Luther, who was collected in the Northern part of the Gulf of Mexico, near Mississippi. This raises questions about genetic mixing of populations. When cold weather hit the area, Bogie and Bacall had to be moved to a temporary holding pen, because the water temperature suddenly dropped to 8°C. The stress involved in this unscheduled move caused Bogie to abort her calf. Supposedly, Bacall was due to give birth somewhere in June. How her pregnancy developed is something we will probably never know. On May 16, 1996, the fencing of the Indian River enclosure was cut. Up to now it is unclear who is responsible for that. The result was that both Bogie and Bacall disappeared. They were not freeze-branded and do not carry any tags or transmitters. This has robbed us of an opportunity to learn how dolphins adapt to living in the wild, in their native area, after a long period of time in captivity. Since neither Bogie nor Bacall has any distinctive markings, it will be very difficult to get confirmed sightings.
The Welcome Home Project had launched an extensive search effort for the two missing dolphins. Bacall has been sighted twice on May 17 and 18 . There are no confirmed sightings of her after that date. There have been 4 possible sightings and 1 confirmed sighting (on June 2) of Bogie (search data available of May 17 through June 14 ). There are no reported (possible) sightings of either dolphin after June 14, 1996. There have been no reports of dolphins approaching boats, begging for food nor have there been any reports of stranded animals in the Indian River Lagoon area. According to Dr. Naomi Rose of the Humane Society of the United States (who kindly provided the search data as well as other project documentation), there is a lot of small craft traffic in the area, which would make detection of stranded animals (dead or alive) or animals behaving abnormally quite likely.
Buck, Luther and Jake, 3 former Navy dolphins (all males), were captured in the late 1980's in the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico, near Mississippi. They have been involved in (now declassified) Navy research projects. When the Navy decided to scale down its marine mammal program, these dolphins were made available to the Humane Society of the United States and Sugarloaf Sanctuary, on a public display permit. In November 1994 the dolphins were moved to the Sugarloaf Sanctuary. At the time the Sugarloaf Sanctuary was run by Lloyd Good and Rick O'Barry At the time, Bogie, Bacall and Molly were also at the Sugarloaf facility. On June 5, 1995, Lloyd Good dropped the gates of the Sanctuary and released the 3 dolphins. They never left the lagoon. In the mean time, the Sanctuary came under the scrutiny of NMFS and APHIS, because there was no veterinarian involved in the project. Good had decided against using veterinarians, who had been involved in the care of dolphins at captive display facilities. Instead, he hired Sharman, a shaman, to guide the process and to take care of the well-being of the dolphins. Later, O'Barry took Buck and Luther and moved them to another enclosure near Sugarloaf, to prepare them for release. For reasons that are still unclear, Jake was left at Sugarloaf, in the company of Molly (O'Barry claimed that Jake might be older than reported and therefore was not a suitable candidate for release).
In January 1996, the Sugarloaf Sanctuary requested a permit from NMFS (the US National Marine Fisheries Services) for the release of Buck and Luther in Mississippi. However, on May 23, before a permit was obtained, both animals were released near Key West, on the opposite end of the Gulf of Mexico. According to O'Barry, the animals were released near a native pod of dolphins and were seen moving close to that pod.
In the days following the release, Luther was seen repeatedly begging for food in some Key West marinas. On May 30, a team of the Dolphin Research Center and NMFS went to Key West to check Luther out. He responded promptly to a pinger (a target he was trained to respond to in his Navy days) and was brought to the Dolphin Research Center (DRC) in Grassy Key. He had a number of lacerations on his right side. At the time of his recapture, these lacerations had already started healing.
Buck had disappeared from the area and in early June he was found near Islamorada, about 70 miles north of Key West. He was emaciated and seemed more than 40 kilos (100 pounds) underweight. He was begging for food from boaters. He also responded to a pinger and followed the boat to DRC. At first he was reluctant to enter the pens. The DRC staff then decided to release one of its oldest residents, Theresa. She swam to Buck and he then followed her into the enclosure. Buck had a laceration on his left side, similar to the ones seen on Luther.
The lacerations on both animals were deep: through the skin and into the blubber. O'Barry and his associates claim that these were rake marks from interactions with wild dolphins. Others have suggested that these wounds were caused by boat propellers. DRC staff and veterinarians said these wounds were too deep to be simple rake marks. However, they weren't propeller wounds either. What has caused them is unclear at this point.
On June 7, 1996, the Sugarloaf public display permit was revoked, because of alleged repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act. In response, the Navy has removed Jake from Sugarloaf. On June 13, Luther and Jake were transported back to the Navy facilities in San Diego. Buck was considered to be unfit for travel. It is likely that he will remain at the DRC facility. On June 24, also Molly was taken from the Sugarloaf facility and moved to DRC.
In the wake of this release attempt, Ric O'Barry and Lloyd Good were charged with violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. On May 8 1999 they were charged $59,500. According to NMFS, the dolphins were not prepared to survive in the wild and, as a result, subsequently sustained life-threatening injuries.
Sugar, the resident dolphin at the Sugarloaf Lodge, which has been alone for quite a while and also was not in contact with any of other dolphins at the Sugarloaf Sanctuary, remained at the Lodge. She died in July, 1997
|Molly and Jake at Sugarloaf, December 12, 1995|
The Utrish Dolphinarium of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences has released two marked bottlenose dolphins to the Black Sea on August 23, 1996. The experiment has been performed as part of the Russian-Israeli Program for study of the Black Sea dolphins. The male, Dicky (11-14 years, 215 kg and 270 cm), had been in captivity from June 1990. From September 1990 he was kept in the Red Sea enclosure of Dolphin Reef in the vicinity of Eilat, Israel. Bella, a young female (5-7 years, 155 kg and 224 cm) had been in captivity less than 2 months (from July 1997). She was captured specifically for this project in the Taman Gulf, the same area where Dicky was captured. The idea was that Bella could serve as a role model for Dicky and could facilitate his integration into local dolphin pods.
The animals have been freeze-branded on the flippers on both sides. Dicky was marked with the "+" symbol and Bella with the letter "V". The marks were 1 cm wide and 6-7 cm long. The use of radio tracking devices has been considered but was rejected because it was felt that these devices might have an adverse effect on their integration into wild pods.
Immediately after the release of the dolphins in the Taman Gulf, in August 1996 and in June 1997 (at the beginning of the summer season, when the beaches of the Black Sea are overcrowded with tourists) information about this experiment was given to the TASS Agency of Russia, to local and central newspapers, local TV and radio of the Caucasus and Crimea Black Sea coast. In June 1997, a 1,000 dollar reward was announced for photos, identifying Dicky in the open sea. Moreover one of the Utrish Dolphinarium specialists visited all ports of Caucasus and Crimea to collect reports of marked dolphins from fishermen and sailors. On September 5-7, 1996, the pair of marked dolphins was sighted by fishermen near Yalta. During 3 days both dolphins have been seen catching fish close to fishing nets together with a group of wild dolphins. On June 16-20, 1997, Dicky was seen near Gelendzik. He approached close to the beach and played with swimmers. When Utrish personnel arrived, Dicky had disappeared. Bella was not sighted, but reportedly a group of wild dolphins was near. To date, there are no video recordings or photographs available identifying either Dicky or Bella. Reported sightings have not been confirmed by Utrish personnel.
(Information provided by Dr. Lev Mukhametov, pending official publication)
Menique, a young dolphin that was captured in Cuban waters in 1995 was taken from an aquarium in Chile, where he allegedly was kept under poor conditions. According to the Cetacean Society International, he had been abandoned in Iquique, Chile, after the travelling dolphin show that owned Menique failed financially. Menique was flown to the Havana National Aquarium in Cuba in April 1997. A number of organisations, including Wildlife Rescue of Dade County, were involved. A group led by Dr. Celia Guevara planned to release Menique back into Cuban waters. Dr. Guevara claims: "All the dolphins we've released into the wild have adapted well and joined new pods". However, Menique was never released and died in Havana in April or May 1998.
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