'Free Willy' was a movie, Menique is real
Ecologists hope dolphin rescued from Chile can be set free
April 16, 1997
Web posted at: 7:56 p.m. EDT (2356 GMT)
From Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman
HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- He may not be as famous as the star of
"Free Willy," but like the whale in that 1993 movie, a
dolphin named Menique has been rescued from treacherous
owners and brought to safety -- in this case, Havana's
Animal rights organizations caring for Menique (which, in
English, means 'little finger,' or 'pinky') eventually plan
to release the 7-year-old dolphin back into the waters off
Cuba, his original home.
Covered in protective lanolin and sprayed with water, Menique
(pronounced: men-YEE-kay) arrived on Monday in Cuba from
Iquique, Chile, where he'd lived for two years.
The 20-hour flight followed a long legal battle to obtain the
dolphin's release. Ecologists who won the case said Menique's
Chilean owners had kept him under deplorable conditions.
"He was so thin you could see his bones through his skin,"
said South Florida wildlife rehabilitationist Lloyd Brown.
"His skin was covered with sores."
Good chance of survival in wild
While returning Menique to Cuban waters is the goal, no one
can say just how long that will take.
Releasing sea mammals back into their natural habitat is not
easy, but in the case of Menique, there's reason for
Because he lived in the wild for five years before being
captured and sold to Chile, Menique should still be able to
remember the basics of fending for himself, an animal expert
"All the dolphins we've released into the wild have adapted
well and joined new pods," says Dr. Celia Guevara, a marine
biologist and daughter of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.
Even after his long ordeal, returning home may be Menique's
biggest adventure yet.
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