Below is the open letter I’ve sent to Gloria Mendez (the owner) at Mundo Marino in Argentina, who have a captive orca (Kshamenk) and ten dolphin used in shows.
Dear Gloria Mendez
I visited Mundo Marino 2 weeks ago and as we discussed, I’m sending you an open letter with my thoughts on your operation, and specifically on the captive orca and dolphin.
Firstly I accept that Mundo Marino does considerable good work with local wildlife. I witnessed it first hand and I’m grateful that you continue with this.
My main issue with your operation though is the continued captivity of 10 Dolphin and the orca (Kshamenk). The orca is basically alone, with his only company being the dolphin and trainers. He would have little idea that he is even an orca anymore. Activity with trainers and dolphin hardly resembles the stimulation he would have in the wild with the complex social structure, hunting for food, mating etc. Further to this, the size of his tank can never replace the open ocean from where he was taken.
There is a growing body of concern about keeping such animals in captive conditions like this, and especially making them perform tricks for the public in exchange for food.
In many ways your business remains dependent on these shows. Kshamenk is your flagship event, and without him, visitor numbers (revenues / profits) would drop. While you may argue that the Kshamenk shows pay for your good work on saving wildlife, the end in no way justifies the means.
I would point out that there are many other organisations that work with wildlife throughout South America (and elsewhere) without the financial injection from cetacean shows.
You have a couple options from here. Firstly, you may choose to ignore the public’s growing concern with dolphin and orca shows. You do this at your peril however. SeaWorld with the world’s largest captive orca population has seen its share price plummet as the public have become informed through the movie “Blackfish”, and also as protests and other activities have raised cetacean captivity as a public issue. SeaWorld recently announced the orca shows will be stopped, but in many ways they left it too late to save their reputation.
If you continue with the shows, then your company will start to come under pressure as well. While it may take time for them to get to the level seen in the US and elsewhere, make no mistake that Mundo Marino will be subject to future protests, and this will negatively impact your revenues as the Argentinean public gets informed.
The secon option is Mundo Marino might be proactive in fostering a relationship with NGOs such as Earthrace, and others, who can help a phasing out of the shows, and getting Kshamenk to a Seapen where he may start to lead a more normal life. I know that for an organisation to give up their flagship show would be challenging, however you cannot just continue with business as usual. Sonner or later this issue would need to be addressed.
We do have several potential donors that could assist in securing a suitable location and paying for the support of Kshamenk going forward. There are also several leading orca scientists who are willing to offer their services to the project.
My contact details are below and I’d welcome the chance to discuss this further with you.
Captain Pete Bethune
Earthrace Conservation Organisation
Mahuragnia West, New Zealand