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Knott’s Dolphin Show Protested; Five Arrested

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Five animal rights activists protesting the captivity of marine mammals chained themselves to a dolphin swim tank at Knott’s Berry Farm on Saturday, halting a noon dolphin feeding show, park officials and police said.

After the protesters had remained chained for about an hour, Buena Park police summoned by security guards arrested them. They were taken to police headquarters and booked on trespassing charges, then released with orders to appear June 29 in Municipal Court in Fullerton.

Members of Orange County People for Animal Rights said they have demonstrated against dolphin shows at Knott’s Berry Farm with signs and pamphlets for two years. This year, they said, they decided to do something more dramatic to draw the attention of the park’s management.

“They have ignored us and ignored us in the past and they didn’t ignore us today,” said Gina Lynn, 22, of Cypress, who was among those arrested.

The others arrested, police said, were Jerald Daniel Friedman, 26, of Laguna Niguel, Kathy Louise Vandell, 45, of Redondo Beach, Sherry Lynne Trapp, 54, of Orange, and Robin Grace Schroader, 21, of Venice.

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While the five protesters harnessed themselves to the dolphin tank, about 20 picketers outside the park gates carried signs that said “Thanks But no Tanks” and mourned the death of a dolphin at the park more than a year ago.

The organization’s spokesman, Chris Velluci, said the demonstration at Knott’s was part of a protest that is being staged Memorial Day weekend nationwide by animal rights groups against the capture of marine animals.

“We want an end to the use of marine animals in amusement parks,” Velluci said.

Knott’s Berry Farm spokesman Bob Ochsner said the park had expected the demonstrators this weekend but had not anticipated that any would chain themselves to the dolphin tank. This tactic, he said, “was not popular with the audience,” some of whom booed the demonstrators.

Ochsner denied that the dolphin shows are inhumane.

“We actually provide an education-oriented message of marine mammal conservation to millions of guests a year who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to see these animals up close,” he said.

“We are bettering understanding in hope of protecting [dolphins] in the wild, and we have every indication to believe that these animals are healthy, happy and receiving the very best possible care and treatment,” he said.

The two dolphins that perform at Knott’s, he said, were “rescued” from parks elsewhere that closed. Also part of the show, he said, are two California sea lions that washed up on the beach and were nursed back to health.

But Ava Park of Irvine, who founded Orange County People for Animal Rights, said mammals in marine shows, particularly dolphins, suffer from “captivity stress.” Half of the dolphins die in their first two years of captivity, she said. Moreover, she said, captive dolphins live an average of five years, compared to a 50-year longevity of those in the wild.

Lynn said that while those who chained themselves to the dolphin tank were booed by many visitors, other park-goers were curious enough about the protesters’ cause to ask questions, and a few showed sympathy.


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