SINGAPORE - One of the 25 dolphins destined for Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) newly-opened Marine Life Park died yesterday on its way to Singapore - the third of the wild-caught dolphins acquired by the resort to die, sparking outrage among animal lovers.
A Marine Life Park spokesman said the male dolphin, named Wen Wen, died suddenly less than an hour before landing during the three-hour flight from the Philippines.
The park had been left with 25 dolphins after two died of a bacterial infection in a holding area in Langkawi, Malaysia, in 2010.
The 25 dolphins were training in the Philippines until earlier this week, when the first group of 14 dolphins was flown to Singapore.
In a statement last night, the spokesman said the two marine mammal veterinarians and eight specialists monitoring the 11 dolphins on the flight yesterday had responded with emergency medical treatment.
Preparations for the move had started several months ago and included continuous health assessments of the animals and simulations.
The dolphins had also gone through medical checks before the flight and were deemed healthy.
"No medical results or behavioural observations indicated that Wen Wen was in a compromised condition to make the journey," he said.
According to the park, a necropsy was performed on the dead dolphin yesterday, with officials from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority present.
Further tests will be conducted in Singapore and the United States in the next few weeks.
The spokesman added: "Wen Wen was a sociable dolphin that survived a shark attack in the wild and had the scars of a shark bite on his torso. (He) and his trainer had developed a strong bond during their four years together."
Last month, animal rights groups in the Philippines had fought in courts there to stop the dolphins from being exported to Singapore, while local wildlife conservation group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) has campaigned vigorously against the acquisition.
Yesterday, ACRES Chief Executive Louis Ng urged RWS "to do the right thing" and rehabilitate and release the remaining dolphins back to their home in the Solomon Islands.
"Wen Wen was born in the wild, lived six years free in the wild, and it is tragic that he died in captivity far from home," he said.
The incident also provoked an outcry among animal lovers, who questioned the need for dolphins in the park for educational purposes.
Bank officer Brandon Huang, 31, an avid diver, said keeping wild-caught dolphins in captivity is cruel and "demeaning".
"I am for having an aquarium to educate, but certain wildlife such as dolphins just cannot be kept in such an environment," he said.
He also objected to having rare shark species, such as hammerhead sharks, at the Marine Life Park.