Belen dies at Mundo Marino Aquarium – February 20th 2000

Hello everyone,

Some of you have heard this sad news from Argentina already, but we want you all to know about it, so please excuse any duplication. We also need you to help solve a real and urgent problem in Argentina. As we’ve mentioned previously, Argentina is in the forefront of international efforts to protect whales, and has enacted a bold national law that bans captures of orcas. However, the captive industry may be able to circumvent this law by replacing Belen through another orca “stranding”. These unfortunate events, which have been the source of all orcas captured in Argentina, are deeply suspect… though no proof exists that they were caused deliberately. Whatever the truth may be, the fact is that orcas which strand in Argentina too often end up in concrete tanks. In many countries the natural reaction to a cetacean stranding is to attempt immediate return to the ocean. Rescues are now happening around the world, often led by dedicated citizen groups. This has happened in Argentina too, but it needs to always happen. We can all help convince the government to make sure that orcas and other cetaceans will only be helped by people in Argentina, and that the era of “capture by stranding” ends. Please take the time to send even a brief message to the government and responsible officials in Argentina. Something as brief as “please help to make sure that orcas and other cetaceans which strand on beaches in Argentina are treated kindly and returned to the ocean quickly” is enough, though of course you can write at length if you have time. It would also be helpful to praise Argentina for its National Law N° 25.052, which protects orcas. The list to send your messages to is at the end of the following report about Belen’s death by Juan Carlos Lopez. Juan Carlos is a long-time Argentinian orca researcher and activist. He and his allies in Argentina need our help. Please read this report, and please act now!

Our thanks and best wishes to you all,

Paul & Helana.


Last Friday 4th, an Orca named Belen died, for reasons still unknown by us after being kept for 12 years in a pool performing circus’s style shows in the “Mundo Marino” aquarium of San Clemente del Tuyu, Argentina. In some way, at last, she have found her freedom. Belen died after staying captive since January 6th 1988, when she was “rescued” from a stranding, thing that let the above mentioned aquarium to have a new animal to train and perform different shows, showing her as a clown, jumping in the air touching balls or carrying on her back the trainer on duty. Handling the stress of captivity and also the trauma of an abortion. (when she died she was 13 years old). The main causes of her death are unknown for us up to this date. The aquarium talk about kidney problems.

The sad history of orcas catched in the Argentine Sea began in it’s first step with Milagro, a male Orca also “rescued” by the same aquarium, on August 8th 1985, and who then died after five and a half years of being exhibited in a pool where he performed different circus shows, begining the chain of the so called “rescuing of ill and stranded Orcas”. It was followed with Belen. Both of the Orcas were trained and sent after a short time from the “rehability center” to the show pool within the same aquarium, where far from being freed again in their natural environment (the sea), they have had to handle the training’s stress and the daily shows repeated two or three times, giving to their owners big profits. The third step began at September 17th 1992, when the aquarium informed that an adult Orca male was found stranded at the banks of Salinas river, who was then transferred to one of the pools of the facility, dying after few more minutes. The fourth step began at 19th of the same month, according to the same aquarium, when a new exemplar of Orca was also found stranded in the bay and river mouth of Ajo, near San Clemente del tuyu, who was also “rescued” and took to the “rehabilitation center”, where he followed the same path of Milagro and Belen, being named “Kshamenk”, also being trained to perform circus shows in the facility. He is now the last survivor after a chain of three deaths, and surely the same ending awaits him, taking in mind that captive orcas shorten their natural longevity dramatically (which is of about 50 to 80 years) to an average of 5 to 10 years. The two aquaria that hold on their facilities exhibitions and shows of marine wildlife (Mundo Marino and Mar del Plata Aquarium) received an official reconaissance as “Center of rescueing of Marine Mammals” by Resolution No. 88 of the Natural resources and Fisheries Secretary of the province of Buenos Aires, giving them the right above a resource shared with another provinces, such as Rio Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz, and also with countries like Brasil and Uruguay.

The national decree No. 1216/74 says that “the conservation of seals, sea lions, penguines and likely species, must be kept by the Nation’s Authority, having in mind that the constant migrations of those species can’t make possible, by the term of its protection, the assignation of the domain of an specific province”. The Orcas studied in our waters have a known living area of more than 400,000 square km (160,000 square mi) which means 2,000 times the covered area of Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina. It’s also known that they have a varied diet. A patch of sea that can’t be compared at any point with the pool of an aquarium and a diet based in frozen and dead fish.We must remember here that on December 7th 1990, two juvenile Orcas got fully stranded for five hours at the natural reservation of Punta Norte at the Peninsula of Valdes (Patagonia, Argentina). Those Orcas were kept wet by the wildlife keeper Roberto Garcia Vera, till the time that, with a simple help they could return to the sea and survive. No sophisticated equipment, trucks, cranes, holding devices, rescue cushions and economical concepts were took in mind, only the wish of bringing them back to the sea, where they enjoy up to this day the tourists that visit Peninsula Valdes, recently named World Heritage by the Unesco.

We ask now to ourselves when will appear the next Orca stranded near an aquarium, and if the above mentioned authorization of “rescuing” given by the Natural Resources and fisheries administration Secretary of the province of Buenos Aires would not ease in some way or another the permit of catching Orcas again, thing which is expressely prohibited by means of the National Law No. 25.052, achieved after a hard job with the former National deputy Dr. Elsa Melogno. Time and new authorities have the last word about this matter. We are all awaiting that education will not pass through captivity of these animals anymore, in a country where the natural areas and their wildlife are there to be enjoyed.
You can write complaint notes to each receiver via normal mail, fax or e-mail. We are trying along with the Fauna Argentina Foundation to stop the show that still continues. You can help us sending this message to all the people that you know, in order to add more voices to our campaign. It is very important if you can send us back (could be via e-mail) a copy of the sent note in order of keep an optimal checking of the progress of the campaign Thanks again for your help, thinkg that we know you’ll give us as usual. We’ll achieve together that our beloved orcas will continue free in the sea forever.

Juan Carlos
Lopez – President, Fundacion Orca
[email protected]

Please, send notes to:
Señor Presidente de la Nación Argentina: Dr. Fernando De La Rúa
Balcarce 50 (1064) – Ciudad de Buenos Aires
Fax 011-4344-3800 011- 4344-3700
E-mail:[email protected]

Señor Vicepresidente de la Nación Argentina: Dr.Carlos Alvarez
Balcarce 50 (1064) – Ciudad de Buenos Aires
Fax 011-4344-3799
E-mail:[email protected]

Señora Ministra de Desarrollo Social y Medio Ambiente: Graciela Fernández
Av. 9 de Julio 1925 (1332) Ciudad de Buenos Aires
Fax: 011-4381-4182
E-mail:[email protected]

Señor Gobernador de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Dr. Carlos F. Ruckauf
Calle 6 entre 51 y 53 (1900) La Plata – Provincia de Buenos Aires
Fax. 0221-4294189 E-mail:[email protected]

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