Do your part to save the dolphins

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Save the dolphins by doing your part.  This was the message given to the Pattaya City Expats Club on October 2nd at the Amari’s Tavern by the Sea Restaurant. Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg introduced Nancy Gibson who in turn introduced Ric O’Barry.

Nancy is the founder of the Love Wildlife Foundation in Bangkok and is currently undertaking the task of educating the public about the deplorable conditions faced by captive dolphins in Thailand.  In this effort, her foundation invited well known activist Ric O’Barry to present the documentary film, “The Cove” at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok and again at the Pattaya Regents School.

PCEC was fortunate to have Ric O’Barry, who has campaigned against dolphin exploitation and was involved in the production of the documentary film “The Cove”.PCEC was fortunate to have Ric O’Barry, who has campaigned against dolphin exploitation and was involved in the production of the documentary film “The Cove”.

Ric O’Barry is well known for his efforts to educate the public and to free captive dolphins. He was the trainer for the bottle nose dolphins that were used in the 1960’s television series Flipper. He attributes the popularity of that show to the significant increase in dolphinariums around the world. He has spent the last 35 years trying to tear that industry down. His about face on keeping dolphins in captivity came when one of the dolphins used in the Flipper series died in his arms. He said when he started this effort there were only 3 dolphinariums in existence; now it is a billion dollar industry with dolphinariums all over the world.

Ric was involved in the production of the documentary film “The Cove,” which has received over 70 awards globally, including 2010 Academy Award for best documentary. The 2009 film centers on Taiji, Wakayama, Japan, where local fishermen slaughter about 2,000 dolphins every year.  To keep this secret, they have the cove where it is done fenced off and signs against trespassing. The film follows an elite team of activists including Ric, filmmakers and free divers as they embark on a covert mission to penetrate a remote and hidden cove in Taiji.

Nancy Gibson, founder of the Love Wildlife Foundation in Bangkok, shows PCEC members the petition her group is preparing for presentation to the Thai Prime Minister to save dolphins from captivity. Her T-shirt says it all.Nancy Gibson, founder of the Love Wildlife Foundation in Bangkok, shows PCEC members the petition her group is preparing for presentation to the Thai Prime Minister to save dolphins from captivity. Her T-shirt says it all.

To begin, Ric played a 15 minute video showing excerpts from the film and noted that although the film centers on Taiji, Japan, it also points out other issues. One being that dolphins are heavily contaminated by mercury as are most fish in lakes, rivers, and the ocean; the result of coal fired generators who release mercury into the atmosphere. After the video, Ric said that it really didn’t do justice to the entire story. He mentioned that the entire film can be seen on YouTube and recommended that everyone see the film if they hadn’t already.

He then explained their experience in making the film and exposing what goes on in Taiji.  Regarding the dolphin hunt in Taiji, Ric said it is ongoing right now as the hunt goes from September to March of each year.  He is working with people that are there at the moment as they think by continuing to educate the public and the Japanese themselves about the slaughter and the health hazard of eating dolphin meat it will result in change. After describing their efforts in Japan and elsewhere, he then mentioned his and Nancy’s visits to three dolphinariums here in Thailand noting that at the time of the visits, only one had dolphins and that the “show” that was presented was very bad. In the other two, they have had dolphins and he surmised that they probably had died recently and not yet been replaced.

MC Richard Silverberg and former chairman Richard Smith welcome Niti Kongkrut from the Tourist Association of Thailand (TAT) in Pattaya, who informed PCEC members of the trip to the Chonburi buffalo races.MC Richard Silverberg and former chairman Richard Smith welcome Niti Kongkrut from the Tourist Association of Thailand (TAT) in Pattaya, who informed PCEC members of the trip to the Chonburi buffalo races.

He said that he primarily blames the 30 or so dolphin trainers that come to Taiji to get more dolphins for their dolphinariums. Unlike the Japanese fishermen, he said they should know better.  Ric explained how dolphins are “self aware” as are humans and great apes.  He said that the trainers pay around 150,000 US dollars for each of the dolphins they select; whereas the meat from the slaughtered dolphins is sold for about 500 US dollars each. Consequently, it is the dolphinariums that make the Taiji hunt lucrative for the fishermen.  Ric then answered several questions regarding dolphins and what can be done to aid his efforts; to which he suggested don’t buy tickets to see dolphin shows. With few customers, they would not be economically viable.

After the presentation, Niti Kongkrut from Pattaya’s Tourism Authority of Thailand office told everyone about the upcoming trip to the Chonburi Water Buffalo races they are sponsoring for Club members and guests. Richard Silverberg then updated everyone on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the always informative and sometimes humorous Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about expat living in Thailand, recommendations for restaurants and movies are made, and perhaps a joke or two are told.