Saturday, September 20, 2008
If you grew up watching the TV series Flipper, the American TV program which had its debut on Sept. 18, 1964, then you will remember this lovable dolphin that captured every kid’s hearts then.
I watched the reruns. I was but a tiny baby in 1964.
Flipper was the bottle-nosed dolphin companion of Porter Ricks, chief warden at fictional Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve in southern Florida, and his two young sons Sandy and Bud.
As a child I wanted to own a dolphin, too. How could I not want one, Flipper was the smartest dolphin in the world. And, in many ways, he seemed much smarter than any of the dogs we had at home at the time.
To this day, I am most fascinated by the dolphin. More than any other sea creature I am aware of. A close second is the Dugong.
In many ways, I wish that I could be as gentle and loving as the dolphin, a sea mammal that loves humans and loves to play, too.
But that is the downfall of the dolphin. The gentle nature of this sea mammal has made it easy prey to folks who have less than noble intentions towards it.
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Anna Cabrera, PAWS program director, invited me to join a small peaceful rally that PAWS spearheaded in front of the Japanese embassy last Sept. 3.
Sept. 3 was the fourth annual Japan Dolphin Day, and where animal loversand advocates the world over held protest actions against cruelty to dolphins in Taiji, a small coastal town in Japan.
Read this from the website of the Humane Society International (http://www.hsus.org/hsi/oceans/dolphins/drive_fisheries/japan_dolphin_day_2008.html): On Sept. 3, individuals worldwide will unite for the fourth annual Japan Dolphin Day to speak out against the cruel drive fisheries of Japan, which slaughter hundreds of dolphins in every hunt.
The dolphin slaughtering season in Taiji, a small coastal town of Japan, often lasts from September to March. During this time, dolphins are herded into a shallow cove by fishermen in small boats and then are brutally killed with lances and knives. A few are kept alive to be sold to the captive dolphin industry, including swim-with-the-dolphins programs, where they may suffer for years.
Some of the dolphins who are killed are used for their meat which, recent studies have shown, has high levels of mercury and is not suitable for consumption by children or pregnant women. Unfortunately, dolphin meat continues to be sold in Japan despite the risks and without any warning from the government.
The Taiji dolphin hunts continue to prosper because the fishermen receive immense profits from selling some of their victims to the captive dolphin industry. The government also gives the fishermen permission to continue the hunt because they consider the dolphins pests who eat too much of the fish stocks around Taiji.
Individuals and groups, including the Humane Society International will gather to protest at Japanese embassies and consulate offices across the globe. The majority of people in Japan have no idea that their country is allowing the slaughter of so many dolphins, and most people around the world are also not aware. The blood-stained sea and agonized screams of the dolphins will not go unnoticed as activists worldwide make sure that their cries are heard for the dolphins.
“PAWS is very much against the inhumane treatment of animals,” said Anna. “With our rally, we hope to make Filipinos more aware about the cruelty committed against dolphins.”
The protest was held in front of the Japanese Embassy. PAWS hopes to get a few more people together to speak out against cruelty in any form.
So what really happens when the Japanese fishermen go in search of these dolphins?
I was told by a friend who loves dolphins and lives near the sea that the acts are so cruel. There is no way that people in their right minds would do anything as cruel, she added. What happens is that fishermen go out in small, motorized boats to locate a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. Once the fishermen locate a pod, they begin herding the animals toward the shore, using the noise of the boats’ engines and the banging of pipes underwater. The fishermen either drive the animals onto the shore or trap them in a bay. Shallow water is a must because fishermen slaughter the dolphins by getting into the water and stabbing the animals to death.
There are also some dolphins that are kept for marine parks. The ones for the parks are removed from the water in slings or stretchers.
In the late 1980s, marine parks and aquariums started buying live dolphins and paying many thousands of dollars for each animal. Even if the number of animals killed each year is not as high as in the past, dozens and sometimes hundreds of dolphins die annually.
In 1993, a California marine park sought to import several false killer whalesfrom Japan, and the same videographer who originally exposed the drives in the 1980s revealed how the animals were captured. The US government had stipulated that the dolphins could only be imported if they had been captured “humanely.”
Because the manner of capture violated the conditions of the permit, the government prohibited the import. Since then, no whales or dolphins have been imported into the United States from Japan.
That is good news.
Still, there are other countries that continue to import dolphins from Japan.
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Here in the Philippines, let’s hope that the Manila Ocean Park and the Dolphin Show in Subic aren’t getting their dolphins through such cruel channels.
Better yet, let’s just stop putting fish in aquariums and using dolphins to do tricks for our selfish viewing pleasures.