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LAST UPDATE: September 21, 2001

- September 21, 2001

We want to thank all of you who sent letters to the Guatemalan authorities on behalf of the two dolphins Ariel and Turbo that were abandoned in the mountains of Santa Lucia, Guatemala, by the traveling dolphin show "WaterLand/ Mundo Marino."

The response we received to our action alert was absolutely overwhelming, and we are happy to announce that the letter writing campaign worked: The judge that ruled over the case of Ariel and Turbo received close to 3000 letters from around the world and finally gave the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) the permit to release the dolphins back into their natural habitat.

Turbo and Ariel regained their freedom August 31. This would not have happened without your help. One Guatemalan newspaper stated, "No Guatemalan authority has ever received this many letters regarding one single issue."

A very special thank you to Eva Schandl and Gwen McKenna who worked overtime to generate more than 2500 letters and signatures in support of the dolphins' release.

Helene & Ric O'Barry


Dear All,

We are having serious problems in Guatemala and need Action alert, Guatemala. Letters needed immediately. The dolphins Turbo and Ariel need your immediate help once again.

As you may know, the two dolphins that were abandoned by the traveling dolphin show "Water Land" in the mountains of Santa Lucia, Guatemala, were handed over to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) in June this year with the purpose of rehabilitation and release back into the wild. The decision to allow for the release project to take place is due in large part to all the letters, faxes, and emails that were sent to the President and the judge in charge of the case, and on July 12 Turbo and Ariel were airlifted out of the mountains and brought to a spacious, natural sea pen where they soon recovered from more than 14 months of confinement in a small, filthy tank.

In the course of the last four weeks Turbo and Ariel have regained their natural skills, such as chasing and catching live fish, and they are both ready to venture into the open sea. Tragically, the release project is at a standstill due to legal red tape, as WSPA must now await the judge's permission to let the dolphins go. Meanwhile we are faced with a serious problem: The water of the dolphins' sea pen and surrounding area is getting very warm. As we approach mid August and September this problem will increase and the dolphin's health is at serious risk. Turbo and Ariel need to be able to seek cooler waters as soon as possible.

Please send letters to the person below, urging him to ensure the immediate continuation and completion of WSPA's dolphin rehabilitation and release effort. The recipient of the letters -- Gerardo Paiz of  "Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas" (CONAP) -- will hand the letters over to the judge that rules over this case. Please keep the letters polite and courteous. You may simply copy and sign the letter below or, better yet, change its content to make it original and personal.


Dear Mr. Paiz,

It has come to my attention that the outstanding efforts of CONAP and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to rescue, rehabilitate, and release the two dolphins Turbo and Ariel back into the wild has come to a standstill due to legal red tape, despite the fact that the two dolphins, after weeks of successful rehabilitation, are ready to venture into the open sea.  Turbo and Ariel are now trapped in warm water, which puts their health and well being at serious risk.  Last Sunday, for example, the temperature of the water in their sea pen was as high as 33 degrees Celsius.

Keeping dolphins confined in such warm water is extremely dangerous, and experts predict that Turbo and Ariel will become sick by the end of this weekend or soon thereafter.

As you know, the fate of Turbo and Ariel has attracted worldwide attention, and people around the world are now realizing that the delay in their release is a death sentence. I hereby urge you to allow for the immediate completion of the rehabilitation and release project so that the dolphins can leave the sea pen and find cooler waters. Please pass this urgent request on to the judge that rules over this case, before Turbo and Ariel die.

Yours sincerely,
Your name and address

Contact information for Gerardo Paiz:
Email address:
Phone/fax: (502) 230 0870
You may cc your letter to us at:

Thank you for your help.

- July 12, 2001

LOOKING UP: A marine biologist looks into the mouth of a dolphin, covered in lanolin to keep it damp, before it is transported to a beach on the Caribbean coast. (Jaime Puebla, AP Photo) Guatemala City - Two dolphins abandoned for the last year in an improvised tank high in the Guatemalan mountains were airlifted to a special holding pen at an Atlantic-coast beach on Thursday.

Environmentalists and the Guatemalan army co-operated to truck Ariel and Turbo, a pair of 8-year-old bottle-nosed dolphins, from a tank near the city of Antigua to a military base in Guatemala City. Packed into containers with water and ice, Ariel, a female, and Turbo, a male, were then flown in a military cargo plane to the coastal city of Puerto Barrios, 250km to the northeast.

Finally, a military helicopter lowered them to a special 200-sq-metre pen in the Atlantic ocean off La Graciosa beach.

A year in captivity

"They're in a pen, but they're finally in the ocean," said Magaly Rey, a member of the MadreSelva Collective environmental group that first brought the dolphins' plight to the attention of the public.

"They have a good chance of surviving in the wild," said Rey, noting that the pair spent most of their lives in the ocean and were apparently caught only about a year ago.

Ariel and Turbo were among a group of four dolphins brought to Guatemala in 2000 by an Argentine-owned animal show called "Water Land," which has been criticised in the past for mistreating animals. They installed the animals in an improvised tank near Antigua, about 25km west of the capital. But authorities found out that the owners, Ricardo Roca and his son Ruben, had permits for only two of the dolphins.

The Rocas skipped town, selling the other two dolphins to an aquarium on Venezuela's Isla Margarita in February and leaving Ariel and Turbo in a stagnating pool with no water filtration devices or food.

Dirty water, no food

Rey's group contacted dolphin trainer Rick O'Barry, who inspected the 8m tank - an earthen pit lined with a plastic tarp - and said the animals needed to be released back into the ocean.

The water was filthy, they were malnourished and the 2 000m altitude was bad for them.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals stepped in and, after negotiating with the Guatemalan government, helped pay the cost to ferry the dolphins to safety.

Environmentalists accompanied the marine mammals throughout the entire trip to care for them.

Once released into the pen, both were marked - Ariel with a heart on the dorsal fin, and Turbo with a star - so that they can be identified once they are fully released.

Depending on how they acclimate to the ocean, experts say they could be released into the open ocean within two to three months. They are not likely to lack for friends.

Five other dolphins were sighted off La Graciosa beach as workers erected the metal-link holding pen to hold Ariel and Turbo. - Sapa-AP