Posts Tagged ‘seaquariums’

Flipper : a catalyst to dolphin slaughterings?

January 19, 2010 1 comment

"Flipper" the television series

Ever been to Sea World? Ever been to any type of Dolphinarium or Seaquarium that has dolphins?
Yes? No?
Well ever heard of a famous dolphin named Flipper?

Even if you have never watched the television series “Flipper”, chances are you have heard of it.  Most people, when needing to name their dolphin stuffed animal, or the such, automatically think “Flipper” as a choice.  The name Flipper goes with dolphins as the name Shamu goes with killer whales, or as the name Snowball goes with a big fluffy white cat.
Point being, Flipper was a television series that changed the world of dolphins more than you probably could have even imagined.

The television show brought about a huge dolphin fascination.  Seaquariums and Dolphiariums became very popular, and visitors started pouring in to see these magnificent animals they were seeing on the television show.  With the rise in popularity of Sea Parks, there became a demand to make more Sea Parks, and to bring in more dolphins. 

But where were they getting all these dolphins from?  The dolphins weren’t lining up volunteering to be the next somersault star of the show. 

It’s known that a lot of asian countries will sometimes obtain an obsession with the latest American culture, and try to embrace it themselves.  They’re also very opportunistic.  Well, in this case, countries, such as Japan, started taking this obsession to the extreme.  If you haven’t figured out where this article is going yet, you are about to.

Remember the question asked above: “But where are they getting all these dolphin from?”
Well, Japanese fisherman, knowing how to herd and trap dolphin, found this dolphin fascination to be a great profit opportunity.  And, as whaling and dolphin slaughters is a huge issue, everyone always points at Japan first.  And it is a justified accusation. 

Dolphin Slaughters in Japan

Japanese fisherman herd dolphins toward shore or into coves.  They do so by lining up boats and creating a wall of sound by hammering on the end of a metal pole that stretches into the water.  This sound and its frequency disturbs the dolphins and scares them into being herded in a direction away from the sound- in toward the shore where they are trapped.  Once trapped, the fisherman  up ropes around the dolphin pod to fence them in.  Eventually  dolphins have freaked themselves out so much that they become exhausted. 

Now it is time to bring in the trainers from Sea Parks to let them choose which dolphins they want in their shows and in their tanks.  For every show dolphin a fisherman sales, he can get over $140,000 for.

As you can imagine, not many dolphins are picked out of the dozens that have been herded at this particular time.  So what happens to the remaining dolphins?  They are slaughtered.  Instead of releasing the unchosen animals, they are brutally slaughtered to be turned into meat.  Over 23,000 dolphins a year are supposedly slaughtered to be used as meat.

The majority of this information and inspiration for this posts and a series of posts to come, was taken from the movie “The Cove”.  This movie, or documentary, was made to alert the world of the unnecessary dolphin slaughterings that are happening in Japan.  The head of the operation: Richard O’Barry. 

Ironically, the very person that was behind the dolphin Flipper, of which the television series may have started the chain reaction to these dolphin slaughterings, is also the one that now stops at nothing to free dolphins, and expose situations such as those in Japan.  This person is Mr. O’Barry himself. 

Richard O'Barry & Kathy on the set of "Flipper"

Rick O’Barry was the best dolphin trainer of his time.  He loved his job, until one day his eyes were opened.  He was sitting in the water with Kathy, better known as “Flipper”, when she swam into his arms, and died.  He considered it as suicide.  He believes that Kathy was so depressed from living in captivity that she killed herself.  How do dolphins commit suicide you ask?  As human beings we take breaths subconsciously.  Dolphins have to think about taking breaths.  They’re breath is running out, they think to themself “time to surface and inhale air”.  So, when Kathy swam into Rick’s arms she took one last breath, then didn’t take another one.  She then passed away and sunk to the bottom of her prison belly up.  The next day Rick was in prison for freeing some dolphins at an aquarium.  From that day forward he  vowed to protect dolphins.  And to this day he continues to do so in what may be one of his riskiest projects yet: “The Cove”.

There will be a series of articles to come inspired by this documentary as stated above.  You will see not only the work Rick O’Barry has done over the years, but what “The Cove” exposes as well.