In 2003, ACRES launched the “Suffering, not Smiling” campaign to raise awareness on the plight of captive dolphins and to urge Singaporeans not to support marine parks and dolphinariums that keep dolphins in captivity.
The campaign is based on scientific and factual evidence that captivity is detrimental to the welfare of dolphins and that that research, conservation and education in dolphinariums and marine parks have minimal benefits to wild dolphins.
In particular, ACRES expressed serious concerns over the plight of the Indo-Pacific humpbacked or “pink dolphins” (Sousa chinensis) currently held in captivity at Dolphin Lagoon by Underwater World Singapore (UWS).
Dolphin Lagoon is operated by Underwater World Singapore which is owned by the Haw Par Corporation.
At the time of an investigation by ACRES in 2003, the dolphins at Dolphin Lagoon were living in wholly inappropriate conditions and made to perform unnatural circus-style tricks for the public. In 2003, ACRES gathered evidence that food deprivation was used as a training method. In 2003, the shy dolphins were also documented being used in “petting sessions” and “swim with the dolphin sessions” with the public.
At Dolphin Lagoon a female dolphin called Namtam died of acute gastritis, a stress-related disease, in 2001. On March 5th 2001 it was reported that “Namtam went into shock, lost consciousness and died” (The Straits Times, 28 March 2001). Jumbo, a male dolphin at Dolphin Lagoon, has been observed showing signs of mental and physical stress.
Besides the welfare concerns, ACRES also uncovered indisputable proof that four of the dolphins at Dolphin Lagoon (including Namtam, the dolphin who died) were in fact caught from the wild in Thailand, not captive bred as previously claimed. This has serious implications for the survival of this critically-endangered species in the wild.
The “Suffering not Smiling” campaign called for Underwater World Singapore to:
- End the use of dolphins in animal shows at Dolphin Lagoon.
- End the petting and Swim-with-Dolphin sessions at Dolphin Lagoon.
- Stop the further imports of dolphins to the Dolphin Lagoon.
- Begin research on the rehabilitation of the Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins and eventually release the Indo- Pacific humpbacked dolphins from the Dolphin Lagoon back into the wild.
Members of the public and local and international animal welfare and conservation organisations signed a petition calling for the above.
Another main objective of the campaign was to prevent the establishment of new dolphinariums in Singapore.
This campaign was supported by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).
ACRES published a campaign report on the captive dolphin industry entitled “Suffering, Not Smiling: The Truth About Captive Dolphins.”
The full report can be downloaded here.