RWS says it's not aware of incident in viral dolphin video
A video clip showing a dolphin repeatedly ramming its head against the wall of a tank, purportedly at Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) S.E.A. Aquarium, was taken last year and sent to Empty The Tanks (ETT), a United States-based organisation focused on ending dolphin and whale captivity.
ETT founder Rachel Carbary told The Sunday Times on Thursday that the clip was sent a day after the person who recorded it visited the S.E.A. Aquarium.
She said: "The video was sent to ETT by a member of the public who visited S.E.A Aquarium in 2018. During his visit, he witnessed the disturbing dolphin behaviour... and chose to record it. We have shared this video on social media in the hope of bringing more attention to the plight of these sentient animals that continue to suffer in captivity."
The clip has garnered more than 300,000 views since it was posted on ETT's Facebook page last Sunday.
When contacted, an RWS spokesman said it was not aware of the incident and unable to confirm that the video was taken at its Dolphin Island attraction on Sentosa, where over 20 dolphins are kept. Visitors can view them through a glass panel.
Dr Chua Tze Hoong, group director of animal and veterinary service (AVS) at National Parks Board (NParks), said a team which visited the RWS dolphin facility on Thursday did not observe any "abnormal" behaviour.
He said the AVS took a "serious view" on ensuring that animal businesses comply with licensing requirements to safeguard animal health and welfare.
In the 27-second video clip, an Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) can be seen swimming towards the side of the tank and slamming its head against the wall nine times. "This distressing behaviour is one of the many reasons dolphins do not belong in captivity," read the caption that accompanied the video post.
In a statement to The Sunday Times, RWS said: "At Dolphin Island, we allow our dolphins to swim on their own or in groups at different timings where they can explore and interact with one another in our large interconnecting lagoons, which can be differently reconfigured to encourage play and socialisation."
Dr Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist who works for the US-based Animal Welfare Institute, told The Sunday Times what the dolphin did in the video was an example of "poor emotional health".
She said: "This kind of repetitive, pointless, even self-damaging behaviour is the essence of stereotypy. It is a sign of boredom, neurosis and depression."
Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which has campaigned against the attraction, said it was not surprising to see a wild animal kept in captivity displaying signs of stress.
"No man-made tank can come anywhere close to replicating the natural environment these animals are found in," Dr Gill said after watching the video.
In a report in July, the World Animal Protection singled out RWS' Dolphin Island as one of the attractions that violate the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (Waza) animal welfare guidelines which state that its member venues should "avoid using animals in any interactive experiences when their welfare may be compromised".
The animal welfare organisation stated that the swim-with-dolphins programme at Dolphin Island, which has been a Waza institutional member since 2014, breached the guidelines.