There may be a Canadian connection to an incident that has horrified animal protection groups around the world.
Michael O’Sullivan, a spokesman with the Humane Society of Canada, said Thursday the group is investigating reports that a Canadian may be involved in the roundup and sale of bottle-nosed dolphins off the Solomon Islands. "In my opinion, he’s the worst kind of international criminal you could possibly imagine," said O’Sullivan. "He’s profiting from the devastation of wrenching social animals away from their pods. I think he ought to be investigated and if there’s enough evidence, he ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
About 200 dolphins have been captured for sale in Mexico and Europe. Twenty-eight of them arrived in Mexico on Tuesday, creating an international uproar over the animals’ rights.
Environmentalists and the Australian government argued that Mexico should have blocked the flight that carried the dolphins because the long trip would likely kill several of them.
O’Sullivan said his group was tipped off by animal protection contacts in Australia that one of the ring leaders of the operation may be Canadian.
"We’re investigating to see whether or not he’s broken any laws in Canada, in the Solomon Islands and in Mexico," O’Sullivan said.
"In fact, it was a Brazilian aircraft that transported the animals from the Solomon Islands and we’re trying to see if the airline and its representatives are also liable under any of the domestic or international laws."
O’Sullivan said the Humane Society has written to the presidents of Mexico and the Solomon Islands asking that there be no more imports or exports of dolphins.
But he added others can share in the blame for the situation.
"In Mexico, in particular, if tourists didn’t pay to go see them, there’d be no financial incentive to do it. So every time someone pays to go see a dolphin they’ve got to take some ownership and responsibility for this problem as well."
On Thursday, officials at a Cancun aquatic park denied reports that several of the dolphins had died during the flight to Mexico, showing reporters the mammals swimming in sea corrals and eating fish on Thursday.
The Mexican government and Cancun’s Parque Nizuc, which purchased the dolphins, said the flight was safe and legal.
Before the new arrivals, the park had 15 bottle-nosed dolphins that had been caught off Mexico’s coast before the country banned the capture of dolphins. The dolphins from the Solomon Islands are also bottle-nosed, but of a darker colour.
Parque Nizuc is one of several Cancun attractions that invite tourists to swim with captive dolphins. The park said it plans to train the dolphins over the next four months to interact safely with humans.
Most large water parks, including those in the United States, use only dolphins they breed in captivity. But the growing popularity of parks that allow tourists to swim with dolphins has encouraged some parks to seek captured animals.