For those who keep saying “how can you steal a walrus, saying that there was a plot to do so is absurd”, kindly watch this brief segment of O'Barry’s speech. He wants to see Smooshi returned to the wild (the fact that she arrived in Captivity as an infant is the reason that she bonded with Phil Demers, and also a reason that she can NEVER be released. She would never adapt to the wild. The Alaska Wildlife Concervation Center rehabilitates and releases as many animals as possible, but never walruses rescued as calves). He even suggests taking bolt cutters, breaking into the park, and having Smooshi follow “The Walrus Whisperer” out of the park.
Whose to say that O'Barry wasn’t exaggerating? Have you heard of Buck and Luther? This man, the same man that is suggesting that they take Smooshi out of the park, took two dolphins and released them to the wild illegally. To say that you couldn’t “steal” a walrus is ridiculous because they can walk on land. Unlike dolphins. If this man can “steal” dolphins, a walrus would be a cake walk. Want to know what happened to Buck and Luther after their “liberation”?
“In January 1998, an extremist named Ric O'Barry, and others involved in a "return-to-the-wild” project were federally charged with violating the MMPA. They were charged with harassing and illegally transporting two dolphins, Buck and Luther. Ric O'Barry dumped these two dolphins into a wild pod six miles off the coast of Key West on May 23, 1996 after they’d spent a year in a “re-conditioning” program at Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary. Neither Buck nor Luther was from Florida waters. NOAA Fisheries arranged for both dolphins to be rescued out of concern for their inability to survive in the wild alone. Luther was sighted the day after his release approaching boats and jet skis. He was rescued when he followed a group of jet skiers into a remote area. Buck disappeared for two weeks after being abandoned by Ric O'Barry. Buck, close to death, was rescued by the federal government and DRC personnel. He had traveled over 100 miles without Luther or other dolphins. He had lost a third of his body-weight, was severely dehydrated and was breaking down his fat and muscle tissues for energy. Some of the most prominent marine mammal veterinarians examined Buck and diagnosed his condition as typical of terminally ill, stranded cetaceans. He did not have the knowledge or the tools he needed to survive.
Buck was in critical condition when he arrived at DRC. Due to our dedication and Buck’s spirit, he gained weight back and felt better. We enjoyed working with Buck and his boyish enthusiasm for three years, but he never fully recovered from his near-death experience, and having been so emaciated, dehydrated and stressed. He experienced high points and low points in his recovery until he let go peacefully on June 20th of 1999. Buck leaves a legacy of truth to another possible ending to the Free Willy story, and we will continue to honor his life in sharing his truth.
In June 1999, Judge Peter A. Fitzpatrick, a U.S. Administrative Law Judge, fined all that were involved in this case – Ric O'Barry, Lloyd Good III, Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary and the Dolphin Project Inc. – civil penalties of $40,000 for illegally “taking” by harassment and illegally transporting Buck and Luther. The Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary was also fined $19,500 for failing to notify NOAA Fisheries prior to transporting Buck and Luther. The Honorable Fitzpatrick chose to fine the maximum penalties provided by law, because he wanted to set a precedent to prevent irresponsible releases in the future.
When someone sets a precedent that they are more concerned with publicizing their cause than actually “saving” animals, their actions are unpredictable and often dangerous to everyone involved.