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Mon 22 Oct 2007 01:07 PM

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Dubai dolphins not mistreated, firm says

Shipment organiser says 28 bottlenose dolphins for Atlantis resort treated with 'great care'.

Twenty-eight dolphins controversially shipped from the Solomon Islands to the Atlantis resort on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah have arrived safely despite protests from environmentalists, according to a shipment organiser.

The bottlenose dolphins arrived at Dubai’s Palm Atlantis resort on the man-made island after boarding a 30-hour flight on Wednesday, said Marine Exports Managing Director Chris Porter, Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported on Sunday.

The deal between the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre and Exporters and Kerzner Istithmar went ahead despite protests after three dolphins were found dead near the firm's holding pens outside the capital of Honiara as the mammals were being loaded onto planes.

"What concerns me is that these animals died before being shipped out," said Lawrence Makili, a director of the San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute, quoted newswire AFP.

"They're under stress before even getting on the plane."

However, company director Robert Satu told Australian media that the dolphins were treated with "great care" and that he was "not aware" of any animal deaths connected with the company's business, reported newswire AP.

Kerzner Istithmar, owner of the Atlantis marine project, last week announced the development of a world-class dolphin programme - Dolphin Bay - on the Palm Jumeirah, where the 28 Solomon Islands dolphins are currently acclimatising to UAE waters.

“Both the Dubai and Solomon Islands governments enforce strict regulation of exports in compliance with all international standards," Kerzner said in response to the legality and safety of the purchase.

"We have created a successful trade between one of the wealthiest countries in the world and one of the poorest South Pacific nations," AAP quoted Porter as saying.

Each dolphin goes for $200,000 on the Dubai market, according to newswires.

The move to export the dolphins to the UAE comes four years after the Solomon Islands government halted the trade when a similar shipment to Mexico resulted in the death of 9 dolphins, causing international outrage.

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