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Ukrainian Group Drawn Into Ugly Dolphin Debate

A Ukrainian group that trades in dolphins has come under unflattering scrutiny in connection with a captivity debate over a planned Qatari dolphinarium.

The issue arose after Qatari Dolphin Discovery & Research was forced to withdraw a suggestion that National Geographic was sponsoring or otherwise involved in its intent to house and show the dolphins.

Such entertainment projects are increasingly popular around the world but fiercely criticized by activists who reject the hunting or capture of such highly intelligent animals as dolphins and whales.

In the Qatari case, animal-rights activists accuse the group behind the Nemo Oceanarium in the Black Sea city of Odesa, Nero/Nerum LLC, which is reportedly tasked with supplying the animals for the Qatari project, of propping up one of the world's most widely criticized animal slaughters.

They have traced Nero's Pacific bottlenose dolphins back to a roundup and killing facility in Taiji, Japan, which was the subject of the Academy Award-winning 2009 documentary "The Cove," which included an appeal to end the Taiji slaughters (see trailer below).

The Japanese export documents are available here and here (thanks to U.S.-based digital journalist Elizabeth Blatt).

The Ukrainian company, Nemo, has defended itself by saying it gave the animals a "second life" by acquiring them "from a quota meant for cooking in Japanese restaurants."

The Qatari group's Twitter account, "Qatar Dolphin Discovery & Research," meanwhile suggested "those animals are rescued from the shore and many of them are declared as 'can't survive in the wild' because they are either blind, deaf or physically disabled."

But animal-rights advocates dispute that interpretation, saying such trading in live dolphins plays a significant role in perpetuating the lethal roundups.

The criticism of the Qatari facility also elicited an eye-opening series of tweets on the "Qatar Dolphin Discovery & Research" account. It lashed out at Westerners (and Americans in particular), accusing them of "screwing up the whole region" and "kill[ing] by bombing shooting or striking men, women, kids, animal, green" while chiding others about animal rights (see image, below).

A contributor to the International Whale Protections Organization quoted the National Geographic Society as saying in a statement that it "is unfamiliar with Qatar Dolphin Discovery & Research, and has not provided sponsorship support. Our name and trademark were used on their Facebook page without our knowledge or permission."

-- Andy Heil

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