Moby Solangi’s name is well known across the Gulf states. Some think of him as a hero, but others know a darker truth about him – a many layered truth with decades of callous treatment of marine mammals. In 2005 he re-captured dolphins that were washed out into the Gulf during Hurricane Katrina from Marine Life Oceanarium, of which he was the co-owner. They were the very same dolphins that he abandoned as Katrina set her sights on Gulfport. Yet in the past year, the United States Government has contracred with his Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
to rescue animals affected by the Gulf disaster.
However having conducted my own visit to his facility during the BP Oil Disaster, it was clear that the tanks and facilities were for the most part empty. The treatment rooms showed little signs of use and unlike almost everywhere one went in the summer of 2010, nothing much seemed to be going on. Since this past winter, IMMS has been contracted by our government to engage in tissue sampling and necropsies of dead marine animals, mostly sea turtles and dolphins that continue to wash up on Gulf Beaches in unprecedented numbers. And the government has also made it illegal for anyone not associated with or under the same authority as IMMS to perform necropsies on dolphins or turtles from the Gulf region, citing the ongoing litigation against BP as a reason for their lack of transparency and unwillingness to share their data.
What they have effectively done is to make it impossible for independent scientists to perform independent sampling to verify the cause of death in the ‘Unusual Mortality Event’ that continues to bring dead cetaceans and turtles onto the beaches of the Gulf. But read on, there are more dirty secrets to be learned about Moby Solangi. These secrets are so dark, it is hard for many to believe anyone could allow him to be near marine mammals at all. And when we get to the part about the Federal Grant money funding his new Dolphin Abusement Park, you’ll see, the plot thickens.
Between 1956-1989 Moby Solangi captured over 200 dolphins in the Mississippi Sound. These animals were sold to sea circuses, amusement parks, the US Navy, and other dolphin facilities around the country. Solangi also rented out dolphins to Zoos around the country. Zoos would pay a set price every month and the package would include a dolphin and sea lion show, food, supplies, veterinarian supervision, and a trainer. If a animal got sick or died, Marine Animal Productions (MAP), the company which Moby Solangi Co-founded in 1965, would simply send a replacement animal. The Oklahoma City Zoo was one of the many zoo’s that rented dolphins from MAP.
The zoo closed it’s dolphin exhibit after they had many dolphins die and activists, including Ric O’Barry, confronted the zoo about the deaths bringing it into the public eye in 1991. At that point all but two of the dolphins MAP had been renting out had died.
While capturing these animals, there are accounts of many dolphins dying due to stress or drowning. On one occasion a former employee of Solangi claimed that about 20 dolphins died. On another capturing expedition another former employee says that a mother and calf were caught in the nets. Both were cut free but the young calf died due to stress (You can read more about this in the link below “Loving Dolphins to Death“). Lack of laws and shady record keeping makes it impossible to know just how many dolphins Solangi took from the Mississippi sound, or how many died in the process.
“Every dolphin catcher in the business risks losing a few in accidental drownings, or to capture shock. It goes with the territory.” ~ Moby Solangi
According to employees, there were 3 dolphin tanks at Marine Life Oceanarium: An outdoor tank in which a ‘Swim with Dolphins’ program was held, a tank for the sea lion show, and the largest tank in which the main dolphin show was performed. The dolphins remained in their respective tanks at all times. In September of 2005, Category 5 Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Mississippi Gulf coast. The day before the storm was due to hit, Solangi instructed his trainers to start relocating some of its animals. Eight Sea Lions were sent to a trainer’s home, six of the fourteen dolphins were moved inland to saltwater pools of hotels, and the exotic birds were sent by truck to Florida. The remaining animals were left to ride out the storm alone. During the storm Gulfport endured 120mph winds for six hours. Katrina rained down terror on Gulfport for six hours with 120 mph winds lashing into the coastal community, leaving only devastation in her wake.
After Katrina passed over, workers finally arrived at what was left of Marine Life Oceanarium
. No animals were found. In the weeks that followed Solangi and others tried to find their missing animals. When all was said and done, six animals had lost their lives – a Harbor Seal and five Sea Lions. Of these deaths some were found dead and some were euthanized. Of those found dead, one Sea Lion was reported to have been shot by a local police officer. The Harbor Seal was never found.
Twelve days after the storm, trainers from the facility set out to find their missing dolphins by boat and by air.
To the surprise of many, the eight dolphins were found not far from what was left of Marine Life.
Amazingly all eight dolphins were re-captured and moved to new facilities. The media went crazy over this “feel good” story. With Marine Life
a complete loss, the animals were sent to near by facilities to stay until decisions could be made about the future of Marine Life
. In Dec of 2005 Don Jacobs, co-owner of Marine Life
, fired Solangi and made arrangements to sell the 17 dolphins to Atlantis in the Bahamas. Solangi tried to get an injunction to stop the sale of the dolphins, but failed. Through it all Solangi said he would open up another facility, and then turned his attention to his work at IMMS
Now work has begun on a new oceanarium in Iberville, Mississippi. Solangi has a $10 million dollar federal grant to create the complex, which will feature dolphin shows, aquarium exhibits and bird sanctuaries (cages). Reportedly the grant requires that the facility is to be built by the end of 2011.
According to an IMMS news release, the facility is claimed to be a one-of-a-kind marine education center, which will provide both students and the general public an opportunity to learn about nature and marine mammals. The total cost of the new facility is expected to be around $75 Million when finished.
Advocates have created a petition
to Halt the Building of Ocean Exp
Please visit the following sites for more about Moby Solangi.
Land Deal going Through
Moby Solangi – Entrusted With Telling Us the Truth About the Dying Dolphin Calves – Or Dolphin Abuser by Ric O’Barry
Dolphins of War
Loving Dolphins To Death This is a MUST READ. Solangi starts on page 3, under Kelly Williams story.
History Of Risk Surrounds Captures Another Must Read. Solangi starts on page 3