Conservation group, RWS end tie-up earlier than planned

What was meant to be a five-year partnership between a global conservation group and Singapore's Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has ended two years earlier than expected.

The partnership between the United States-based Conservation International (CI) and RWS started in 2013 and aimed to further conservation and public education efforts in areas like marine biology.

But only one project has been undertaken since then - a 10-month initiative to tag manta rays and track their movements in Indonesia, which started in September 2014. "With this work completed, and with no further initiatives planned with RWS, CI has decided to end the partnership ahead of the planned cessation in 2018," said a CI spokesman.

A spokesman for RWS said it will "continue to explore partnership opportunities with leading organisations which are deeply committed to the protection of the oceans". Both parties did not give other reasons for their parting of ways.

Observers sceptical of RWS' conservation efforts were not sorry to hear of the end of the partnership.

"We are unsure what actually led to the end of their partnership, but it is a relief to hear it has ceased," said veterinary nurse Muhammad Hafiz'zan Shah, of marine conservation group Wildlife Watcher Singapore, who said the partnership was questionable from the start.

He noted that RWS had bought dolphins caught in the wild from the Solomon Islands. The Straits Times understands that some local conservation groups which RWS had approached to collaborate on conservation initiatives had declined to do so due to "ethical obligations".

A key discovery of the 2014 project was a manta ray nursery in Raja Ampat, Indonesia - the first in South-east Asia. That led the authorities there to begin implementing laws to curtail speedboat use in the nursery. However, soon after RWS announced the project, news broke that two of its newly acquired manta rays had died while in quarantine.

Since 2010, RWS has lost four of its 27 wild-caught bottlenose dolphins. It drew flak from as early as 2006 for plans to house wild-caught dolphins in a tank in its Marine Life Park. In its defence, it said such exhibits are useful for education and conservation efforts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Conservation group, RWS end tie-up earlier than planned'. Print Edition | Subscribe