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For Immediate Release: 08/12/09

Conservationists slam decision to allow Mirage hotel dolphin import

Born Free USA, Jean-Michel Cousteau, World Society for Protection of Animals oppose adding dolphins to Mirage “death pool”

Las Vegas, NV — Despite opposition by Born Free USA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), and renowned marine researcher, educator and environmentalist, Jean-Michel Cousteau, the National Marine Fisheries Service has approved a permit for two bottlenose dolphins to be imported to the Mirage hotel from the Bahamas.

In June 2009, “Sgt. Pepper” became the 14th dolphin to die in the hands of the Mirage, leading conservationists to question the fate of additional dolphins kept as hotel attractions.

“Time and time again, the Mirage hotel has proven it is no place for dolphins. If fourteen dead dolphins aren’t proof enough, I can’t imagine what is,” said Monica Engebretson, senior program associate for Born Free USA. “That’s a 75 percent death rate. If animal shelters in Las Vegas had a 75 percent mortality rate people would be up in arms — why should it be any different for dolphins?”

Born Free USA and WSPA initially voiced their opposition to the hotel’s request in May 2009 with the submission of an official complaint in which they called on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to deny the hotel’s request. The groups asked the permit be denied on the grounds of the hotel’s dismal animal care record, the lack of educational and conservation value of the display, animal welfare and transport concerns, and more.

“There is no demonstrated scientific or educational value in the Mirage’s display. Adding two more dolphins to the ‘death pool’ will not serve the purpose of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and may in fact undermine it,” added Engebretson. “The NMFS has done these two individuals, and all marine mammal species, a great disservice. The NMFS should review its decision and revoke this permit immediately.”

“The more we learn about dolphins, the more we must admit they are our counterparts — intelligent, social, self-aware, capable of complex relationships, emotions, and learning. To consign them to a place like the Mirage hotel, with its 75 percent mortality rate for dolphins, and solely for our entertainment, is to impose a death sentence on innocents,” said Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society.

Born Free USA is a national non-profit animal welfare and conservation organization and nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and international wildlife trade issues. Born Free USA was founded on the principle of the classic movie Born Free — to Keep Wildlife in the Wild. More information can be found at www.bornfreeusa.org.


Monica Engebretson, Born Free USA, 916.447.3085 x210, monica@bornfreeusa.org


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