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ACRES seeks agency for new campaigns to promote compassion for animals and oppose dolphin captivity at Resorts World Sentosa

ACRES' campaign mission

ACRES’ campaign mission

Singapore animal welfare charity ACRES is interested in talking to advertising agencies as it prepares to launch two new campaigns; to promote compassion towards animals among Singapore’s Gen Y, and an “ethical alternative” to a casino resort for Singaporeans to encounter dolphins.

The Animal Concerns Research & Education Society is looking for pro bono help from an agency as it gears up for a roadshow to raise public understanding and respect for animals.

The purpose of the roadshow is to show that animals feel and communicate in ways similar to people and “are not just objects for humans to use”. ACRES is looking for ways to engage and inform Gen Y Singaporeans, gain supporters and recruit volunteers.

A briefing document from ACRES reads: “Most animal welfare groups run specific cause-related campaigns – for example: end animal testing, go vegetarian, end animal shows – but there is a general lack of awareness of animals in the first place. There is a need to lay the foundation for these campaigns and ensure that members of the public understand animals, feel for them and see how similar they are to humans.”

The charity is also looking for designers to work on a new idea to pressure casino and entertainment giant Resorts World Sentosa into freeing the dolphins on display in its aquarium.

Last week, ACRES announced a project to operate Singapore’s first dolphin-watching tours, and conduct a scientific study of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins – the same species as those in the RWS’ S. E. A. Aquarium – living wild off the coast. It hopes to raise $120,000 to fund the first year of the project, and has launched an online campaign to drive donations.

“Once you’ve seen a dolphin in the wild, you will never want to see a dolphin in captivity,” reads a briefing document on the project.

The group is also looking to raise awareness of an opinion survey by Millward Brown released in January 2015, which found that only seven per cent of Singaporeans agreed that “keeping wild-caught dolphins in captivity should be allowed.” Support for animal rights was stronger among Gen Y respondents.

ACRES publicity campaign

ST story on ACRES campaign

ACRES has been using social media, PR and roadshows to campaign against Resorts World Sentosa since the company’s emerged plans to bring dolphins to its Marine Life Park. A publicity campaign in 2011 drew international attention, but did not stop the resort from unveiling to the public 27 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins caught in the Solomon Islands in 2013.

The group renewed its protest a year ago, when a fourth of the resort’s dolphins died. A petition on change.org to “Free the Sentosa 23” generated 124,000 signatures and appealed to supporters to write to Resorts World Sentosa chairman Lim Kok Thay to ask for the dolphins to be released. ACRES called for a boycott of RWS and all properties of owner, Genting.

Dolphin Island at Resorts World Sentosa. Image: RWS website

Dolphin Island; image: RWS website

RWS has stood firm – even as ethical concerns surrounding holding Cetaceans in captivity have grown in the wake of 2013 documentary Blackfish – and promotes the educational value of Dolphin Island.

A video on the resort’s website promotes the attraction as a child-friendly educational experience. Interacting with the dolphins, called “engagement learning”, costs from S$198 (10 dollars less for children) for a face-to-face encounter in shallow water to S$248 for “Dolphin track”, where the animals shunt people on surf boards along a water slide.

RWS scored a PR victory with the recent birth of a female calf born in the aquarium. It has also launched a conservation project to save the Irrawaddy dolphin.

ACRES has been successful in campaigning against RWS before. In 2006, a plan emerged for the Malaysian gaming company to catch and display a whale shark, but RWS shelved the idea in 2009 after a campaign by ACRES and seven other NGOs including Sea Shepherd and SPCA Singapore gained enough public support to block the move.

ACRES campaign against whale sharks in captivity

ACRES campaign against whale sharks in captivity

Resorts World Sentosa’s ambitions to bring the world’s largest fish to its Singapore aquarium may not have died. According to a company source, there have been discussions about bringing at least one whale shark into the Marine Life Park to pull in more visitors to the fastest growing part of the business, as gaming revenues have declined.

RWS has denied this is happening, and Mumbrella’s source has said that she was not in the room when the discussions took place.

The company told Mumbrella in a statement: “At the S.E.A. Aquarium, we continuously explore ways to enhance visitors’ experience while educating them about marine conservation. These include seasonal programming and the introduction of new marine residents. However, there are no immediate plans to introduce new large marine species at the aquarium.”

Resorts World Sentosa is expected to release a new corporate social responsibility report this month.

ACRES has previously worked with ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi on a campaign against captive dolphins, Y&R to oppose the illegal wildlife trade and BBDO on anti-sharks fin and wildlife trade initiatives.

Interested agencies should contact the charity by emailing info@acres.org.sg.

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