A Hong Kong marine park on Monday rejected environmentalists’ allegations that it was trying to capture dolphins in the Solomon Islands, possibly in breach of animal conservation rules.
The Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute has said the popular Ocean Park venue was believed to be importing 30 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.
“These wild dolphins are believed to have been recently captured or about to be captured from waters surrounding the Solomon Islands. The importing facility is believed to be Ocean Park, Hong Kong,” several conservation groups told Hong Kong lawmakers in an April 16 letter.
The Institute said there was “mounting and irrefutable evidence” that dolphin imports from the cluster of islands near Papua New Guinea would breach the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Ocean Park rejected the allegations.
“Ocean Park has not deployed any team to capture the dolphins in the Solomon Islands,” it said.
The park’s executive director of zoological operations and its general curator met officials from the Solomon Islands during a research project in December and March, Ocean Park said.
They discussed “supporting a potential collaboration of scientific research on the whale and dolphin population, distribution and genetic diversity in the area.”
“This project represents Ocean Park’s wildlife conservation initiatives in the wild,” the park said.
Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said it had not received any application from Ocean Park to import dolphins.
The daily South China Morning Post quoted a Solomon Islands government adviser as saying Ocean Park representatives met two government ministers and were expected to sign a memorandum of understanding under which “between 24 and 30” dolphins would be sent to Hong Kong.
Any plan to acquire dolphins in the future would meet local and international animal conservation rules, Ocean Park said.
“If the dolphins (in the Solomon Islands) are not sustainable, we would go somewhere else,” Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman told the Post last week.
“There are a lot of dolphins around, of different species.”
Ocean Park has 16 dolphins, almost half of them born in captivity through an artificial insemination programme, it said.