FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Several people demonstrated against dolphin captivity yesterday at the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory. Helen Wells, left, was one of several people holding signs. Beach picnickers mingled with the activists in the background.
Holding signs that read "Captivity stinks" and "Free the Kewalo 3," eight members of local animal advocacy groups gathered outside of Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory yesterday to protest the facility's housing of three dolphins.
Kewalo dolphin lab
Researchers say that their facilities
comply with requirements
By Mary Vorsino
"We don't just want a bigger tank for them (the dolphins). ... We would love for the animals to be free," Cathy Goeggel, director of research and investigation for Animal Rights Hawaii, said.
The protest, which began at 11 a.m. and lasted for about an hour, garnered a few car-horn toots by passersby.
Inside the laboratory, three Atlantic bottlenosed dolphins, Akeakamai, Phoenix and Hiapo, swim in a pool nearly 110 feet long and about six feet deep. The three are in their late teens or early 20s and were brought from the Gulf of Mexico when they were about 2 years old.
Louis Herman, the laboratory's director and co-founder of the Dolphin Institute, the non-profit arm of the laboratory, said that the protesters "make up stories about what we do."
"We are a research facility. These are not pets," he said, pointing to the dolphins. "They are like family."
Ken LeVasseur, an independent researcher and one of two men convicted of first-degree theft when he released two dolphins from the laboratory in 1977, attended the protest "as a guest."
Any situation where they have dolphins captive is wrong, he said, because there are alternatives. He said that the work the laboratory performs could be done in the open ocean.
"If you want to re-introduce animals into the wild ... (you must) gradually introduce them," Herman said. And Carolyn McKinnie, the laboratory's attending veterinarian, agreed. "It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to release ... dolphins who have been in captivity since they were kids."
LeVasseur said that a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report which found the laboratory "noncompliant" in areas such as the sides of the dolphins' tank and wooden steps leading up to the tanks demonstrates that "nothing has changed in 25 years," when he worked and lived at the laboratory as a dolphin specialist.
Herman said that all of the points in the inspection report have been addressed and improved. "We wouldn't be here if we weren't in compliance," he said.
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