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By BOYD HARNELL
Four Taiji Dolphins Shipped to Egypt Amid Deadly Heat, Extreme Abuse The fate of the dolphins remains unclear after their transfer to a desert dolphinarium
Hurghada, Egypt: Surviving two flights and a truck drive into Egypt under 110 degree heat, four bottlenose dolphins may have been smuggled into Hurghada, Egypt, August 15, from Taiji, Wakayama, Japan, in violation of the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES). They reputedly traveled through a country that was a non-signatory of the CITES treaty. If confirmed, this would have made the entry into Egypt illegal, even though the importation was approved by officials. The four dolphins were shipped to Egypt in mid-August along with four other Taiji dolphins that were exported to Saudi Arabia, according to Japanese custom officials.
Wagby Saad, Egyptian owner of the Taiji dolphins, placed the four small cetaceans into a swimming pool on the grounds of his villa in Hurghada, Egypt, in the Red Sea Governorate, on August 15.The dolphins were under quarantine awaiting transfer to Saad's new desert dolphinarium, under construction outside Hurghada. Saad, who owns another dolphinarium in posh Sharm el-Sheik, had reportedly paid $300,000 for each small cetacean.
Late September local residents found the dolphins languishing in their own excrement in Saad's polluted pool, igniting community outrage. Hurghada EnvironmentalProtection and Conservation Association(HEPCA) was contacted, who in turn dispatched marine mammal expert and former Flipper trainer Ric O'Barry to Hurghada, September 26, to help resolve the dolphins' desperate plight.
On October 1, O'Barry and his filmmaker son, Lincoln, drove to the site where the dolphins were being held to assess their health. When they reached the site and attempted to open the car door, three guards attacked the pair, one of them unleashing a pit bull targetting O'Barry's leg. He escaped the dog's lunge just as another attacker tried to grab his son's video camera, which captured the incident.
In a telephone interview October 2, O'Barry said, "I filed a police report ...and I understand they are filing charges against the owner (Saad) and his three thugs who attacked us." Officers responded to the attack by dispatching eight police armed with machine guns to round up the attackers. They found no one at the villa, O'Barry said. Amr Ali, Managing Director of HEPCA said, " We also tried to lend assistance to the dolphins' owner but all we got was (negative) action from the bodyguards."
The besieged dolphins were later examined by a veterinarian. They were found suffering from their polluted environment due to the pool's defective filtration system, a HEPCA official said. No specific details on the health of the dolphins were issued.
The Red Sea Governorate promotes eco tours and prohibits the trade, shipment, or captivity of wild dolphins within its borders.The Governor of the Red Sea Governorate issued an ultimatum to Saad to transfer the dolphins within 48 hours to his facility due to the appalling conditions of the fetid swimming pool. A $10,000 fine was imposed for every day the transfer was delayed, O'Barry said. The Governor also issued a decree to ban the import of any mammal into the Red Sea Governorate, blocking shipment of five more Taiji dolphins bound for Egypt.
O'Barry was skeptical of the four dolphins surviving in the new dolphinarium, saying, "They're going to die where they're going to, this tank in the desert is not the solution ...I'm going to go on record saying they're going to die when they're moved!" He said the dolphins should be sent back to Japan to Miyake Island where Japanese protect the resident dolphins and added, "but not to Taiji where the dolphins will end up being someone's lunch."
On October 5, the Taiji dolphins were finally transferred by truck to Saad's new facility. The opening date remains unclear and the success of the dolphinarium may be in jeopardy in the wake of community revulsion against dolphin captivity.
After a screening of The Cove October 3, where scenes depicted the bloody spearing of captive dolphins in Taiji, O'Barry said, " People are really outraged, (at Taiji's dolphin slaughter), they're very environmentally conscious here...they think it's totally obscene what's going on...and they get angry.". HEPCA launched a campaign, supported by local travel agencies, tour guides and dive shops, to discourage tourists from visiting the dolphinarium when completed.
Hiromitsu Nambu, a Taiji dolphin broker who arranged the dolphin exports to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, was accused of "cruelty by neglect" by Australian Nigel Barker, a former yearlong resident of Taiji, who was aquainted with Nambu.
Barker said, "Captive dolphins were in the sea pens during a fireworks display conducted on the sea wall, about 15 meters behind the pens, during Taiji's annual Kujira (whale) festival, October, 2007..."And the fireworks went off, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, for 45 minutes and there's a good chance a couple of dolphins died of shock or a heart attack." Barker added, "He (Nambu) didn't move the dolphins...that was singularly cruel,,,"Why didn't he move the dolphins or set them free!" In another incident during a selection for live captures, Barker said, "I observed Nambu laughing on the beach while dolphins were tethered and drowning within five meters of where he was standing."
Nambu's seemingly cavalier attitude towards the captive dolphins was also reflected in another occurrence. His office, within the Taiji Whale Museum complex, was very close to a small tank where I witnessed three captive dolphin calves swimming in filthy water during a visit to the museum in 2006. I saw one baby dolphin tiring and suddenly drop below the surface. It never resurfaced. The calf might have been saved if Nambu, who was at the museum at the time, had bothered to monitor the stressed calves, whose mothers were recently slaughtered in a dolphin drive. The other two calves also died a few weeks later after being force-fed a milk substitute.
Boyd Harnell is a Japan-based journalist who has worked for Time Life TV, UPI, Kyodo News
and other media outlets.
Footnote: TDAG understands that shade has been erected in their new pool. The health of the marine mammals seems to be improving and the white layer on their eyes is disappearing. Furthermore they are interacting a lot more with each other. Also since the importation of the "Hurgadha Four" The head of the Egyptian quarantine authority has been fired and replaced ~ via Hepca.