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Earth Island News

International Marine Mammal Project

IMMP in Colombia

International Marine Mammal Project

The Dolphin in Love

(Written by Milciades de Jesús Peña Ahué, Margarita Naseau School, Puerto Nariño, Colombian Amazon.)

"Once there was a very handsome man in a party. The man had a stingray as a hat, his watch was a crab, his belt a snake and his shoes were two small black catfish. That elegant man danced all night with a young girl and fell in love with her. The day after, the girl went to bathe on the riverside, but she did not realize that the man was now a dolphin. He tried to turn over her canoe until the girl fell into the water and was transformed into a dolphin too. From that moment they became a pair and made their home underwater, and had many little dolphins. That is why there are dolphins in the river."


I have been working with river dolphins for the last seven years in Colombia. In October 2001 I started working with IMMP's International Monitoring Program, to conserve marine dolphin populations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. We are beginning national educational campaigns to promote the Dolphin Safe program to Colombian consumers.

I have monitored, almost weekly, four of the biggest Colombian tuna processing companies: C. I. Pesquera Vikingos de Colombia (approved), Gralco S.A., Atunec S.A., and Compañía Atunera del Pacifico (provisionally approved) so far. They are trying to do things well in terms of dolphin conservation and they are willing to cooperate with IMMP. Nevertheless they represent no more than 40 percent of the national canned tuna industry. For that reason I believe that it is very important to educate people, especially children, about the hidden conflict between tuna fisheries and dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

I also monitor the only approved Peruvian company, Austral Group S.A. It is important to continue monitoring companies in Peru, as it is one of the South American countries where dolphin meat, teeth and bones are still found in local markets. Austral Group S.A. is cooperating with the Institute in every aspect of the International Monitoring Program so far.

My goal working with IMMP as a monitor in Colombia is to stop the exportation of dolphin-deadly tuna from Colombia and other Latin American countries, and to educate people about dolphin-safe tuna.

We are also trying to stop traveling dolphin and marine mammal shows around the country. In many parts of the world, these shows are not allowed.

In the case of the last such show visiting Bogotá, The Italian Circus (El Circo de Italia), owner Mr. Ricardo Roca Egret asserted that "marine mammals came from nurseries that grow animals for sale." At the moment the "Miami Sea Aquarium Dolphin Show" is now visiting Bucaramanga, in the north of Colombia.

The Bogotá council first approved a local proposal to prohibit these traveling shows in the capital of Colombia. We still need the approval of Mayor Antanas Mokus. After that, we expect to make it a national law, but we need international support.

River dolphins are among the most endangered species in the world. They are threatened by human activities such as pollution, logging, fisheries, direct capture for meat, boat traffic, etc. Little is known about their ecology and behavior. A few research groups are trying to promote conservation and management plans in South American countries, even though the social and political situation in these countries tends to inhibit research. In Colombia the Omacha Foundation, a Colombian NGO, was created to study, research, protect and manage aquatic fauna in relation to the physical and cultural environment. Foundation members and associates work in collaboration with the community to draw up guidelines for the sustainable use of aquatic resources.

River Dolphins in South America


River dolphins are among the most endangered species in the world. They are threatened by human activities such as pollution, logging, fisheries, direct capture for meat, boat traffic, etc. Little is known about their ecology and behavior. A few research groups are trying to promote conservation and management plans in South American countries, even though the social and political situation in these countries tends to inhibit research. In Colombia the Omacha Foundation, a Colombian NGO, was created to study, research, protect and manage aquatic fauna in relation to the physical and cultural environment. Foundation members and associates work in collaboration with the community to draw up guidelines for the sustainable use of aquatic resources.

Throughout the Amazon and Orinoco regions people tell stories about dolphins, and the way they can turn into humans and vice versa. Indians have great respect for dolphins and believe that it is dangerous to harm dolphins, as they can be humans. In some cultures, dolphins are assumed to help shamans cure people of serious illnesses, or save the lives of shipwrecked people. Such stories have helped to protect dolphins in many areas in the past, but many newer immigrants to the regions do not share those beliefs. Consequently many dolphins die entangled in nets or being shot as dangerous creatures

   

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