Dolphin amusement park opens for business in Belize
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by EVAN T. ALLARD - CDNN Eco News Editor
SPANISH LOOKOUT CAYE, Belize (1 June 2006) -- Belize has joined the ranks of Caribbean cruise ship destinations cashing in on dolphin amusement parks.
Under the guise of so-called "education" and "conservation", Spanish Bay Resort and the Hugh Parkey Foundation (HPF) won government approval to sell 'interactive' dolphin swims despite intense opposition from local citizens, environmentalists and the Belize Audubon Society.
So far, the Hugh Parkey Foundation has imported four dolphins from Anthony's Key Resort, which owns and operates a dolphin amusement park in Roatan Honduras.
Spanish Bay Resort opened the new dolphin park today after a thirty day quarantine by the Belize Agricultural Health Authority.
According to Teresa Parkey, who runs the Hugh Parkey Foundation and aggressively lobbied Belizean government officials to approve the dolphin captivity scheme, tourists will be charged $100 for a 20-minute dolphin swim.
Parkey claims the dolphin swims aim to educate people and emphasized that income generated by the dolphin shows will be used for "research".
Opponents of the scheme say that Parkey is "green-washing" a commercial business that sends exactly the wrong message to people about marine wildlife.
According to the Belize Audubon Society, captive dolphin programs are inconsistent with the conservation and environmental education.
"Rather than teaching respect and care of biodiversity and natural ecosystems, encounters with wild animals held in captivity, convey the message that wildlife is there for humans to exploit for their own pleasure and financial gain," said the Belize Audubon Society.
The dolphins will be enclosed in a four-acre pen and environmentalists have expressed concern that fecal discharge could adversely affect nearby reefs and Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary.
Critics also said the scheme lacks adequate protection for the dolphins from the impact of hurricanes which frequently hit Belize between June and November.