Dolphins are animals, not clowns
I’ve been to the Ocean Adventure at Subic twice during my elementary and highschool days.
It would be hypocritical for me to say that I didn’t enjoy the whole tour. I mean, the whole place, in itself, is actually wonderful. Lots of stuffs you’ll know about fishes and corrals and exotic animals living at the bottom of the ocean you can see up-close and personal.
I can still remember the tour guide discussing to us several booths inside the place about marine life and animal. There’s this cold room in the back of my memory that houses strange fish. There’s this show about a highly intelligent sea lion that can answer math questions and play with large balls.
But a particular memory stood out among the rest – the highlight of the tour. The highly entertaining dolphin shows.
Just as we are roaming around the area, having fun by tapping the screens of large aquariums to catch the attention of clownfish and small sharks, I remember the tour guide calling us through the megaphone that the dolphin show is about to start. My classmates and I whooped in joy. Even the teachers and parents looked excited. We happily followed the tour guide into a grandstand facing the open sea, a rectangular area just as large as a football field, where dolphins swim and show their tricks.
Dark net and blue buoys surround the place. I remembered thinking that the place, with all its wide expanse, was still too small for dolphins to swim around. But I couldn’t help feeling excited too. The closest I’ve seen of dolphins are the ones on Animal Planet and Discovery Planet shows; it would be cool to see them jumping for real!
The show starts. It was exhilarating. The grandstand is filled with cheers and claps of joy, coming from both kids and adults. The long ride to Subic had been worth it, seeing those dolphins jump and toss its riders around. They would jump in hoops, dive then jump real high again. I’ve got lots of printed pictures of the dolphins performing for the crowd, and you couldn’t help but to feel that you have to capture every single moment of the show.
People from the audience can actually have the chance to touch and feed those dolphins with dead fishes! I’ve heard that lately, the park offers the public to even swim with them, or ride on them. In my time, the closest you’d ever go near a dolphin is staying by the docks where trainers in dark tights would feed and call them.
I think it was only about 20-30 minutes long, but we enjoyed every minute of it. In twice that I’ve been there, I always thought I’d come back the next time, and then I can finally touch a real dolphin. That I can get close to those dolphins’ infectious smile and hear their high-pitched calls.
That’s when before I watched The Cove.
The Cove is an award-winning documentary that graced the Oscar’s Awards last 2010. Even before its global viewing, I already heard news and pieces of information about it from anti-whaling websites and advocacy groups. Yes, this little kid who used to clap in glee when dolphins made it to the last hoop, is now against whaling and dolphin slaughter. Even before The Cove, I’ve already joined online groups like Whaleman Foundation online to update myself with the condition of these beautiful creatures on the sea.
Never did I thought that patronizing dolphin shows add significantly to the massive and brutal slaughter at Taiji, Japan as featured in The Cove. Heck, I was even proud that my country doesn’t have a coastal village which massacres dolphins every September for its meat and other commercial purposes, but I was surprised when I learned that the Philippines was indirectly connected to the dolphin captivity and slaughter in Japan.
Dolphins we have watched and seen at Ocean Adventure have a very traumatizing past as they were captured and hoarded in Japan before exporting them to Subic and other marine parks across Asia. A single, untrained animal can go far as much as $150,000.00. The purchasing of these animals from Taiji inadvertently affects the slaughter, as more and more dolphins are captured each year not only for dolphin meat but for dolphins themselves.
I thought that Ocean Adventures, in a way, buy out these animals from their cruel captivity in Japan and protect them in their own vicinity but I couldn’t help but to feel that it’s actually wrong either. Why rescue a woman from a cruel brothel only to prostitute her, sell her, for your own purpose later? The only impractical, yet sensible solution is to release them back on the wild.
The sad part is that it’s American businessmen who are doing this, not Filipinos. Americans who can’t do it on America, or Europe, and so they came to the Philippines and dragged us to this bloody mess.
Lots of aquariums and oceanariums across the globe are still operating and profiting even without dolphin shows.
And on the educational aspect, I swear to my soul that I haven’t learned a single thing about dolphins on dolphin shows, except that they are highly intelligent and can jump real high, which is already a given knowledge. Ironically, much of what I learned from dolphins are the ones I’ve seen on Animal Planet and Discovery Planet shows, and that they are sociable animals who love their families as much as we are humans and are depressed when separated from their pack, and that they deserve more than eating dead fishes and jumping through hoops.
Of course, our efforts just don’t stop on joining online communities or not buying tickets for these shows. We have to do our part as responsible human beings on this planet; that we have to protect their habitat through our little, simple ways just by proper garbage disposal and limiting our energy consumption.
It’s time for us to make those dolphins happy than the other way around.
Four years ago, while on a RORO (Roll-on/Roll-off) trip to the Mindoro province at Visayas region, I was enjoying myself in the deck. It was late afternoon, with the sun about to set and the wind whipping my hair was warm and cool at the same time. My mom and brothers were inside the cabin with our baggage, along my digi-cam, that even now I still regretted of not bringing above the deck that time.
Just as I was scanning the horizon where the large red ball of the sun is descending, just another piece of coin sliding to the blue blanket, my eyes caught a wild darting movement at the side of the RORO. To my amazement, it’s a pack of dolphins, about five of them, jumping together and heading towards the direction of the sun. I was moved by the short, brilliant display of these wild and free animals jumping together with their pack, their movements perfectly synchronized and definitely beautiful. The experience was precious, and humbling at the same time.
A lot of people got to see it too and they were thoroughly awed as I was. A lot took a lot of pictures, pointing and shouting at the same time. I was only able to take a grainy, shitty photo with my old camera, which I deleted right away because the dolphins were unrecognizable!
If only I took my damn camera that day!
But then it hit me, the feeling of having to witness those dolphins swimming in wild abandon was even more profound than them performing tricks. The memory still brings up a smile in me even until today. I could never forget that moment where nature was able to show to me that rare moments like that are indeed, very precious and worth-keeping especially in the time and place we are living.
I hope I can see real dolphins again, not on dolphin parks, but out there at the open sea, swimming together with their families, with the whole ocean as their home, not some makeshift arena of nets and buoys.
Please sign the petition of returning captured dolphins to Solomon Islands. This is volunteer work in my part 🙂
For more information, visit http://www.SaveJapanDolphins.org