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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 2, 2002

Activists protest UH dolphin lab

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

About a dozen animal rights activists, carrying placards with such slogans as "Free The Kewalo 3" and "Captivity Stinks," protested yesterday outside the University of Hawai'i's Marine Mammal Laboratory at Kewalo Basin.

The group, representing Animal Rights Hawai'i, were commemorating the 25th anniversary of the release of two Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins from the facility on May 29, 1977, by two former lab tank cleaners.

Neither of the two released dolphins was ever found. The lab workers were convicted of theft.

One of those men, Kenneth LeVasseur, was among the protesters yesterday. LeVasseur's 1978 trial attracted worldwide attention because of accusations he made of dolphin mistreatment at the lab.

LeVasseur, 51, a project administrator for a local school bus service, remains unrepentant.

"I'm glad I did what I did, and I would do it again," he said.

Cathy Goeggel, director of Animal Rights Hawai'i, said her organization believes the Kewalo facility, founded by University of Hawai'i professor Louis Herman in 1973, makes money by exploiting dolphins.

Herman said dolphins reared in captivity rarely live after they are returned to the sea. He called the group's accusations "100 percent lies," and said the two dolphins that were "liberated" in 1977 both died, a point the activists dispute.

"To commemorate the death of those two animals is an abomination to us," he said.

Herman said his internationally acclaimed dolphin research lab, which has been the subject of numerous articles and TV documentaries, including National Geographic, Nature and "Nova," meets or exceeds all federal animal safety requirements.