IMAGE: DOLPHIN CARCASSES
Ray Lilliey via AP
The carcasses of two bottlenose dolphins lie near a holding pen in the Solomon Islands on Tuesday.
updated 10/18/2007 1:11:13 PM ET 2007-10-18T17:11:13

The carcasses of three bottlenose dolphins — including a calf — were found dumped near a holding pen in the Solomon Islands where controversial exports of the mammals were later carried out. The exporting company on Wednesday denied any knowledge.

The partly decomposed bodies of the dolphins, which were torn open, apparently by stray dogs, were found on Tuesday night lying in the open near a coastal garbage dump site near the capital, Honiara.

Solomon Island Marine Mammal Education Center and Exporters Ltd. on Wednesday airlifted 28 live bottlenose dolphins to an aquatic park in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.

Company director Robert Satu said the dolphins were loaded onto two DC-10 aircraft from Dubai and would be treated with "great care" during the journey.

Satu refused to comment on the discovery of the mammals' bodies on Wednesday.

"I'm not aware of anything like that," he told The Associated Press.

Lawrence Makili, Pacific director of the San Francisco-based group Earth Island Institute, said the discovery of the dead dolphins constituted "clear evidence" that they had been mistreated.

2003 ban overturned by court
Solomon Islands banned the live dolphin export trade in 2003 following an outcry over a consignment of 28 bottlenose dolphins to an aquatic park in Mexico. Activists claim at least nine of the dolphins died in Mexico.

Satu, who was involved in the exports to Mexico, claimed the ban was illegal and won a landmark court ruling last December that paved the way for dolphin exports to resume.

After the court ruling, the government was swift to change its position on the trade.

Fisheries Minister Nollen Leni has said the government would now encourage the capture and sale of up to 100 bottlenose dolphins a year for export, noting that water parks would pay tens of thousands of dollars for a trained dolphin.

A legal bid by Makili's group to overturn the export of the current consignment failed in the High Court on Tuesday.

The planes due to take the dolphins to Dubai arrived at Honiara's Henderson Field airport on Tuesday night, Satu was reported as saying in the Island Sun newspaper.

A local television crew was barred from filming the planes' arrival, with a flight official chasing away the TV camera crew, citing security reasons.

Satu was quoted as saying his company was paid $769,000 for the first dolphin shipment to Mexico, adding "we will get more than that amount in this round of exports."

Big neighbors oppose
International pressure on Solomon Islands over the exports also resumed Wednesday.

Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government did not support any commercial export of dolphins.

New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter expressed grave concerns over the resumption of live dolphin exports in a letter to Mark Kemakeza, Solomon Islands forests, environment and conservation minister.

Carter said he had reminded the Solomons government of its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITIES, which says a country exporting wild animals must be able to show it will not be detrimental to the survival of the species.

"Most New Zealanders would be appalled at the export of live dolphins, a trade that requires the animals to be rounded up, kept in pens and then loaded into aircraft," he said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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