August 18, 2022
A true sanctuary will limit visitor access so that the dolphins are allowed to live in peace.
Based on inquiries we have received, it appears there is some amount of confusion about facilities that list themselves as “sanctuaries” yet keep dolphins for display and interactive programs. We’ve compiled some tips here to help potential customers research before they support a captive dolphin facility.
Selfie or photo opportunities, or any form of guaranteed petting/kisses/etc. In order for a visitor to be guaranteed that they get to touch a dolphin, that dolphin has been trained and is actively receiving reinforcement to perform.
Facility descriptions can be misleading
Names and labels can be misleading. Just because a facility calls itself a “Wildlife Sanctuary” does not make it so– do your research before visiting any park with wildlife. Also beware that some facilities use their charitable status or scientific labels to mislead.
Many marine parks claim their dolphins can “leave any time”. This may be technically true, but most dolphins will not jump a barrier or swim out of a pen because they cannot tell what is on the other side. Captive dolphin facilities would never take the risk of losing their investments. They know very well that their dolphins would not venture into the open sea, even if given the chance: Many captive dolphins have spent so much time in captivity, they have become dependent on people for food and other basic needs. Many of them were born into this unnatural existence, and they cannot simply “go home,” as they have no family pod to connect with.
A natural sea pen may also be a captive environment. It does not equate with being free in the wild.
Wild dolphins can be exploited for profit too! If booking a swim with wild dolphins tour or whale watching tour, pursuit should never be allowed. A boat should never chase a pod of dolphins to get closer to them, or guarantee that you will see dolphins or be able to swim with them. Responsible tours do not permit touching wild dolphins or whales! A responsible tour operator will always abide by and endorse local dolphin/whale watching laws.
Activities and programs
Paid interactions or scheduled activities such as shows, exhibits, or demonstrations should be a warning– it means that the dolphins are expected to be in place and remain for a certain period of time, or perform, which are indications of active training.
Breeding or Calf Births
Breeding or the birth of calves: Staff may make it seem that dolphins are bred in captivity to help wild populations. In reality, these dolphins will not be contributing to wild populations as they will never be released. Dolphins are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of having more captive dolphins to profit from. Facilities that promote or celebrate calf births should be treated with caution.
Where did the animals come from?
If a facility buys, trades, or breeds dolphins, they are likely not a sanctuary. Real sanctuaries prefer to have as few animals as possible to ensure the most amount of space, attention and freedom. Businesses want more dolphins so they can sell more interactions. Sanctuaries have release as their top priority, rather than trying to keep as many rescues as they can.
Many captive dolphin facilities also serve as rehabilitation centers. While it is true that some rescued dolphins cannot safely return to the wild, they should not be forced to perform and entertain in order to earn their keep. Sanctuaries would not require participation of rescued dolphins in shows or force human interactions, which can cause stress.
A real dolphin sanctuary is a place where non-releasable dolphins that were exploited by the dolphinarium industry can live out their lives with peace and dignity.
It is place where the dolphins’ needs are met with no strings attached.
There are no dolphin shows and no interactions programs.
The dolphins receive food without having to perform any trained behaviors.
No commercial photo ops are offered to visitors.
The dolphins live in a sea pen or a floating sea enclosure away from crowds of people, traffic, and human noise.
Every attempt is made to make the dolphins’ lives as natural and independent as possible.
The dolphins receive the food and medical attention that they need.
Whenever possible, live fish are introduced to the sea pen.
Dolphins in a true sanctuary are identified properly as victims, rather than ambassadors.
No visitors are allowed to touch or in any way handle the dolphins.
A true sanctuary makes educational material available to the public about the wrongs of capturing, confining, breeding, and exploiting dolphins in shows and various interaction programs.
A true sanctuary has a fundamental policy of opposing the use of dolphins as tourist attractions that aim to entertain.
A true sanctuary may allow visitors in order to educate them about the reasons why dolphins do not belong in captivity.
A true sanctuary acknowledges that dolphins belong in nature, wild and free.
A true sanctuary is for dolphins that cannot safely be released back into the wild.
A true sanctuary never tells visitors that the dolphins are free to leave whenever they want, as this ignores the fact that non-releasable dolphins depend on their caregivers to survive.
Captive breeding is not allowed in a real sanctuary. There is no reason for a dolphin to be born in captivity.
A real sanctuary does not accept donations from the captivity industry or the tuna industry.
Hopefully, the public will leave the sanctuary with enough knowledge to tell others not to buy a ticket for a dolphin show or captive dolphin swim program.
A true sanctuary will have clear rules in place about appropriate behavior for visitors, so that the comfort and safety of the animals remains the highest priority. A true sanctuary recognizes that visitors are guests, but the animals are the residents. They deserve dignity and respect in their home.
Zippy, Bella, and Jet – the last three remaining dolphins in captivity in NSW – could live happy and healthy lives in a dolphin sanctuary in Coffs Harbour.
Ask NSW Minister for Environment, Matt Kean, to support completion of the feasibility study to build this sanctuary.
The sanctuary would retire Zippy, Bella, and Jet and could help rescue and rehabilitate stranded cetaceans on the east coast of Australia.
It would see Dolphin Marine Conservation Park transition to a venue based on education, rescue and rehabilitation, and protect the jobs and income the Park brings to the Coffs region.
The NSW Upper House recommended support for completing the feasibility study in the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into the exhibition of cetaceans. The decision is now in the hands of the Minister for Environment – The Hon. Matt Kean.
Can you help convince the government to support the retirement of captive dolphins to a sanctuary?Please sign the petition calling on Environment Minister Hon. Matt Kean to support this project.
Multiple feasibility tests have already been completed, including wave and tidal analysis and animal welfare assessments.
Your signature will help apply the necessary pressure on the Minister in charge of this decision and could lead to the building of Australia’s first-of-it’s-kind dolphin sanctuary.
Target: Janet Coit, NMFS Administrator
Goal: Label the Atlantic humpback dolphin as an endangered species to ensure their survival.
You have likely never heard of the Atlantic humpback dolphin, and unfortunately, it’s for a horrible reason. This little-known dolphin is on the brink of extinction, with less than 3,000 left in the wild. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering listing them as protected under the Endangered Species Act, but for now, they are still in the midst of a status review, meaning they still don’t get any federal safeguards. We must apply pressure until these dolphins are officially protected.
It’s no secret among conservation groups that this species is struggling – the NMFS status review stems from a petition by the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and VIVA Vaquita asking for help for the Atlantic humpback dolphin. In fact, these marine mammals are listed as critically endangered internationally, just not protected under the U.S ESA.
We need your help to get them there. A big part of conservation is achieving a higher profile, and name recognition for species in peril. Without public knowledge, it’s wildly difficult to get the financial, legal, and political assistance that conservation efforts need. Because global awareness of the Atlantic humpback dolphin’s fate has been lacking while human activity has been threatening them, their numbers have gotten incredibly low.
One of the largest issues affecting these dolphins is a phenomenon called “bycatch”. Fisheries use massive nets to catch the fish species they can sell, but often other species get trapped and killed, too; including the Atlantic humpback dolphin. Dying as bycatch is horrible – since they are mammals, these dolphins drown when they become tangled in nets and cannot surface to breathe. The netting can also cut into their flesh, causing wounds and infection.
In addition to the threat of bycatch, other human activities threaten the Atlantic humpback dolphin, which lives exclusively in shallow, coastal waters, at risk of human interaction. Coastal development depletes their habitat and noise pollution inhibits their ability to communicate, travel, and can cause injury and death.
The good news is that because these threats are all human-related, regulations and policies will make a major difference in the fight for these dolphins’ survival. But that’s only if we can get the right protections for these vulnerable creatures.
Please, sign the petition telling the NMFS to protect Atlantic humpback dolphins before it’s too late.
Dear Mrs. Coit,
The NMFS is currently reviewing the status of the Atlantic humpback dolphins under the Endangered Species Act based on petitions from the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and VIVA Vaquita. There are less than 3,000 of these animals left in the wild, due mainly to human influence.
This letter is to let you know that I support the petitions put forward by the aforementioned groups, and urge you to include these dolphins in the ESA. Because these creatures are being hurt by human influence, regulations and policy changes will make a major difference in their survival.
Please, follow through on these petitions and ensure the Atlantic humpback dolphins’ survival.
Photo Credit: Mandy
Winter the dolphin, known for her usage of a prosthetic tail, has died.
According to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she had been held in captivity for close to 16 years, Winter had been suffering from intestinal abnormalities. Despite the facility’s efforts, on the evening of November 11, during preparation for a procedure, Winter’s behavior and vital signs began to decline, resulting in her passing.
“We are saddened to learn of Winter’s passing. She could have greatly benefitted from the construction of a seaside sanctuary in the Florida sunshine instead of living in a concrete tank, inside a building. Winter could have retired in peace and dignity, and enjoyed a more normal environment – the great outdoors, the changing tides, and the sounds and rhythms of the sea. From my experience, this is where the healing process begins. While Winter will never get this opportunity, we encourage facilities such as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to build ocean water sanctuaries for their rescued dolphins and other whales.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
In December 2005, the three-month-old bottlenose dolphin, after being freed from a crab pot in the waters near Cape Canaveral, Florida, was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The dolphin’s resilience prevailed – while her grievous injuries resulted in the loss of her tail – she regained her strength and survived.
One year later, in 2006, the Hanger Clinic began work to create a prosthetic tail. After eighteen months, she was fitted with the device. In a blog post written by the clinic, the technology used to fit the prosthetic on Winter resulted in the development of a gel liner, called WintersGel, which is now benefitting human patients.
A necropsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of Winter’s death. A heart attack is suspected.
Featured image: Winter the dolphin, Clearwater Aquarium. Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license; Flickr; Author: Paul
A swimmer who was stranded at sea for over 12 hours is alive today, thanks to a pod of dolphins who helped save his life.
Ruairí McSorley, 24, believed to be from Londonderry, Ireland, was rescued 4 kilometers from shore by Fenit Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) at 8:15 p.m. Given the condition he was found in, the group called it a “miracle” rescue.
McSorley was conscious but “hypothermic and exhausted” when found. He was wearing only a pair of swimming trunks when he was plucked out of the waters of Tralee Bay.Facebook
The swimmer told rescuers he had planned to swim out to Mucklaghmore Rock, 9 km out from where he set off at Castlegregory beach, where his clothes had been found. His abandoned belongings are what led to the search.
12 hours later, RNLI coxswain Finbarr O’Connell calculated where he could have ended up after analyzing tides in the area.
Fenit RNLI volunteer Jackie Murphy said it was a miracle how McSorley survived the ordeal and credited O’Connell with locating him at sea.
O’Connell said the man was surrounded by many dolphins when he was found. They were later identified as bottlenose dolphins living in Moray Firth in Scotland. Since 2019, the sea creatures have been seen off the Irish coast.
“Maybe they helped him in some way or another: who knows?” he said.
The Fenit RNLI and R118 coastguard performed an intensive search across Tralee Bay before finding McSorley.
Despite being the key to finding him, O’Connell refused to take all the credit, noting that the crew they have are “all excellent.”
“It’s good to get a positive result. Normally we go out, and it mightn’t be that positive. We are all just elated,” he said.
O’Connell added that the situation could have ended worse if McSorley was left there for 30 minutes longer. None of them—including the medics—could believe he survived it, but they’re relieved that he did.
McSorley has since been brought to the University of Hospital Kerry, where he is recovering.
“It is literally beyond us all (how he survived),” he said. “He was only wearing a pair of trunks. He had no wetsuit. Nothing. He must have been a good swimmer because he was just over two and a half miles (4km) from the beach.”
McSorley’s body temperature had also dropped to dangerously low levels. The swimmer said he went in around 8 a.m., and rescuers picked him up at 8:15.
“He did spend that amount of time in the water, and I don’t know how he did it,” O’Connell said. “It’s incredible, really.”
They first saw his head in the water and initially thought it was a seal. But then he put up his hand.Facebook
“The elation of seeing somebody floating alive in the water, rather than the other way, is so great,” O’Connell recalled. “We have had too many bad outcomes, so it was absolutely fantastic to pick him up.”
When asked how he had determined the trajectory of McSorley across Tralee Bay, O’Connell explained that they had been trained to handle scenarios like that.
They have a mannequin they throw in the water, which behaves like a person would in water. They leave it there and do an exercise for a few hours. Upon their return, they would see how far it has drifted. They pick it up and note in the chart the direction the tide is going. That’s the knowledge they applied during the rescue.
In light of this incident, Murphy advised swimmers to exercise caution when venturing into the water for a swim.
“Always please tell somebody what time you are due back and where you are going,” she said.
In September 2019, BKSDA Bali Forestry Department in Bali, Indonesia and the Ministry of Forestry initiated the idea for a first ever permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility for formerly performing dolphins. Working with local partners Jakarta Animal Aid Network to supply the manpower and Dolphin Project to provide the financial support and supervision, the team built the Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center in Banyuwedang Bay, West Bali (“Umah Lumba” means “dolphins” in Balinese.)
The Umah Lumba Center is a purpose-built facility for recently confiscated dolphins from captive facilities, and for stranded or injured dolphins. The facility is designed to stabilize the mammals, return them back to health and to assess whether they are candidates for readaptation and release.
For dolphins deemed releasable, they will be taken to Camp Lumba Lumba Readaptation and Release Center in Karimun Jawa, the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of dolphins. The mammals will then be prepared for return into their home range. The location was specifically chosen because the majority of dolphins were captured from the Karimunjawa National Park, and releasing them here would offer a good chance for the mammals to reunite with their family pods.
For dolphins deemed unreleasable, they can retire at the Umah Lumba Center in a safe and healing seapen, and live out the rest of their lives in peace and dignity.
Presently we have three dolphins in our care: Rocky, Rambo and Johnny. Captured in the Java Sea, the dolphins, for several years, were incarcerated in a shallow, heavily chlorinated swimming pool in North Bali. Since their relocation to the Umah Lumba Center, they have benefited from a robust rehabilitation program and continue to undergo regular evaluation towards a possible release.
The dolphins receive 24/7 round-the-clock care. We have a full-time staff veterinarian, security guards and caregivers. The center is a true rehabilitation, release and retirement facility, where our team is committed to making the dolphins’ lives as natural and independent as possible. In March 2020, Dolphin Project, in anticipation of the arrival of additional confiscated dolphins (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) tripled the size of our facility.
As the world’s first permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility in the world, the Umah Lumba Center must be a model of success. Ideally, it will act as a prototype for others to be built globally, as demand for captive dolphins wane.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Captured in the Java Sea, Indonesia, Johnny is an older dolphin who lived several years in isolation inside a shallow swimming pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali. Crowds of people bought tickets to swim with him, and those were the only times he had any company. To make the water appear clean to paying customers, hotel staff added chlorine and other harmful chemicals. This hurt Johnny’s eyes so badly, he went blind. In addition, Johnny has no teeth left, and his right pectoral fin has been permanently damaged. When we first found him, he was also critically underweight. Johnny was destined to spend the rest of his life trapped in the tank, performing for tourists and other guests.
On October 8, 2019, we rescued Johnny from the hotel and transported him to our facility. Under our 24/7 expert care, he has since gained weight and strength, and spends his days exploring the large sea pen, where he experiences the natural rhythms and sounds of the sea. Johnny’s diet consists of high-quality fresh fish, and he is gaining weight and strength. The healing properties of a diet consisting of high-quality fresh fish, along with real ocean water are having a positive effect: Johnny often expresses his joy with energetic jumps, and he spends much time swimming, diving, and playing. We are continuing to evaluate Johnny for potential release, and are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure the rest of his life is filled with peace and dignity. Adopt Johnny today to help provide for his care!
WHAT YOU’LL GET
With a recommended minimum donation of $25, you’ll get a personalized adoption certificate for Johnny (its beautiful artwork suitable for framing), gorgeous underwater photos which are perfect for adorning all your electronic devices, Johnny’s biography, Dolphin Facts, a Dolphin Warrior booklet and quarterly updates about Johnny!
When Rocky was violently captured in the Java Sea several years ago, he lost everything that makes life worth living for a dolphin: his family, his world of sound, and the ability to swim freely in a vast ocean world. Rocky spent several years incarcerated in a shallow, heavily chlorinated swimming pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali. He was trained to obey commands and perform in theatrical shows that attract crowds of fun-seeking holiday makers. In between repetitive, rowdy shows, Rocky spent much time logging on the surface, and could only swim a few feet before a wall stopped him. Confinement in such barren, unnatural surroundings took a heavy toll on Rocky’s well-being, and his future looked bleak and hopeless.
Thankfully, we were able to rescue Rocky on August 5, 2019, and transported him to a temporary floating sea enclosure in Sanur. In December 2019 Rocky was transported from Sanur to our facility. Here, in the crystal-clear waters of our spacious sea pen, he is once again enjoying the natural rhythms and sounds of the sea. Rocky is benefitting from the healing properties of natural sea water and is gaining weight and strength. Rocky loves to participate in boisterous, energetic play, and he especially loves to swim fast. Never again will he have to perform tricks for food or experience confinement in a minuscule concrete tank. Our 24/7 expert team of veterinarians and caregivers are currently evaluating Rocky for possible release. Adopt Rocky today to help provide for his care!
WHAT YOU’LL GET
With a recommended minimum donation of $25, you’ll get a personalized adoption certificate for Rocky (its beautiful artwork suitable for framing), gorgeous underwater photos which are perfect for adorning all your electronic devices, Rocky’s biography, Dolphin Facts, a Dolphin Warrior booklet and quarterly updates about Rocky!
Rambo was torn from his family and pod members in the Java Sea during a violent capture several years ago. He was confined to a shallow chlorinated swimming pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali for the purposes of entertaining crowds of tourists during loud theatrical performances. Rambo shared a tank with a dolphin named Gombloh, and the two dolphins formed a close friendship. Sadly, Gombloh took his last breath on August 3, 2019, just two days before we were able to rescue and relocate Rambo. Hotel staff found Gombloh’s lifeless body in the same tank where Rambo was confined.
We rescued Rambo on August 5, 2019 and transported him to a temporary floating sea enclosure in Sanur. In the following weeks, Rambo gained weight and strength, and in December 2019 Rambo was transported to our facility. There will be no more languishing in a small, barren concrete world, and no more theatrical dolphin shows to perform. All of that is behind him. Rambo is a younger dolphin who appears to be in good health, highly energetic and full of life. He is enjoying the healing benefits of natural sea water and the ability to dive and swim. Our 24/7 expert team of veterinarians and caregivers are currently evaluating Rocky for possible release. Adopt Rambo today to help provide for his care!
WHAT YOU’LL GET
With a recommended minimum donation of $25, you’ll get a personalized adoption certificate for Rambo (its beautiful artwork suitable for framing), gorgeous underwater photos which are perfect for adorning all your electronic devices, Rambo’s biography, Dolphin Facts, a Dolphin Warrior booklet and quarterly updates about Rambo!
Captured in the Java Sea, Dewa was an older dolphin who was severely affected by the trauma he suffered during his confinement at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali. There, he spent years confined in the hotel’s shallow, heavily chlorinated swimming pool, exploited in a commercial dolphin-assisted therapy program for people with paralysis and other disabilities. Our rescue team transferred Dewa from the swimming pool to our facility on October 8, 2019. Since we introduced Dewa to natural sea water, his condition improved but he was still plagued with several health problems including chronic pneumonia., Dewa succumbed to his longstanding illness and took his last breath on March 11, 2020.
Gombloh was captured in the Java Sea and, sadly, did not survive his encounter with humans. Gombloh died at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in North Bali on August 3, 2019, just two days before our team was able to rescue Gombloh’s beloved companion Rambo. We are happy we arrived at the hotel in time to rescue Rambo, Rocky, Dewa, and Johnny from the shallow and heavily chlorinated swimming pools, but at the same time heartbroken that we got there too late to get Gombloh out of there. We will always remember Gombloh, who is one of countless dolphins to have fallen victim to consumers’ demand to watch dolphins perform and to swim with them.
The Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center and Camp Lumba Lumba Readaptation and Release Center form an incredible partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia, BKSDA Bali, Dolphin Project, Jakarta Animal Aid Network, Karimunjawa National Park and the West Bali National Park. Together, we built Umah Lumba, the world’s only permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility for previously captive dolphins and Camp Lumba Lumba, the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to the readaptation and release of dolphins in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa. Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project has pioneered readaptation for captive dolphins and has released a number of dolphins into the wild.
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible as authorized by law.
© 2021 Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. All Rights Reserved.
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New Zealand’s Far Out Ocean Research Collective spotted a bottlenose dolphin caring for a young pilot whale, and this isn’t the first time the species has stepped in as a surrogate mom.
On May 17, the Far Out Ocean Research Collective, based in Paihia, New Zealand, shared that they observed a female bottlenose dolphin interacting with a pilot whale calf like the newborn was her own offspring. Researchers believe that the dolphin adopted the young whale over a month ago and has been caring for the little creature.
“An interesting observation of an adult oceanic bottlenose dolphin with a newborn long-finned pilot whale off north-eastern New Zealand. Earlier in the day, the dolphin was part of a mixed-species group of false killer whales, pilot whales, and oceanic bottlenose dolphins,” the organization announced on Facebook.
Far Out Ocean also noted that this is not the first time a bottlenose dolphin has been observed caring for the young of another ocean mammal. It is unclear why this species seems comfortable stepping in as a surrogate parent, but researchers have theories.
“It could be a misguided motherly instinct, or she lost her own calf,” said Far Out Ocean Jochen Zaeschmar, marine researcher, 1 News reports. “Pilot whales spend seven years with their calves. There is a good chance it will eventually join another pod of pilot whales as they often cross paths.”
Far Out Ocean has taken photos documenting the special relationship between the bottlenose dolphin and the young pilot whale they spotted this spring. The organization plans to continue watching the pair’s journey and sharing their findings with their social media followers.
“The individual is a well-known member of the north-eastern New Zealand offshore bottlenose dolphin population and regularly associates with pilot whales and false killer whales. We are hoping to re-encounter her to monitor this interesting phenomenon,” Far Out Ocean said on social media of the interspecies duo.
An 81-year-old dolphin activist has opened up about the toll years of campaigning has taken on his mental health.
Describing the last 50 years as like “one big bad movie”, Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry said he would prefer to be retired and sailing.
It’s hard to walk away from a lifetime of activism, while the “abuse” of dolphins continues around the world.
“Wherever I am you try and escape it,” Mr O’Barry told Yahoo News Australia.
“Those images don’t go away. Once you see it you can’t un-see it.”
He’s particularly haunted by the deaths of whales and dolphins in Taiji, Japan.
Vision captured by Dolphin Project gives insight into his experience: the ocean turning red with blood after dolphins and small whales are driven towards the rocky shore, then butchered.
“When you put your head on the pillow at night it doesn’t go away,” Mr O’Barry said of his time campaigning against the slaughter in Taiji.
“It’s like one long, bad dream, these last 15 years.”
‘It affects your family,’ O’Barry says of dolphin activist work
In his pursuit to free dolphins from captivity, Mr O’Barry has had his life threatened on many occasions, and lost count of how often he’s been imprisoned around the world.
Describing Japanese prison as torturous, he has avoided confrontation there, even when a hunter in the town of Taiji decapitated a dead baby dolphin in front of him.
“I think he wanted to shock me with a knife, that kind of stuff right in my face,” Mr O’Barry said.
“Blood splattered all over me”.
The work has taken a toll on him, but he believes it’s the people he loves have suffered most.
“It affects your family, it affects everybody around you,” he said.
“You miss your son’s graduation, I’m not sure I would recommend this to anybody.”
‘I wish I hadn’t taken that phone call’
Every time he leaves his home he’s walking into conflict, and that’s hard to leave at the door when he comes home.
Mr O’Barry’s work shot to prominence 10 years ago after his campaign to end dolphin slaughter in Japan was documented in the Oscar winning film The Cove.
Sometimes you have a split second to make a choice and it’ll literally change your life.Ric O’Barry
His work there began after receiving a call from another activist asking for assistance.
Mr O’Barry recalls he was told it was “dangerous” but they needed help.
“So, I bought an aeroplane ticket and I was there the next day,” he said.
“That was 20 years ago and I’ve been stuck (campaigning) there ever since.
“In some ways I wish I hadn’t taken that phone call.”
Dolphin Project’s work in the town of Taiji, has focused on not just the killing of dolphins for their meat, but also the hunters’ ties to the marine park industry.
Dolphin parks linked to slaughter
With dolphin consumption not particularly popular in Japan, and known to be high in mercury, Mr O’Barry believes it is the lucrative sums earned from selling live dolphins which makes the slaughter financially viable.
While debate rages over whether dolphin killing is a tradition in Japan, the large scale culls and capture of these animals is a relatively new phenomenon.
Dead dolphins sell for as little as US $480, while a live animal can sell for 100 times that amount, according to Vice News.
The majority of those sold into entertainment are sent to China where there is an expanding middle class, with money to spend on dolphin shows, the Washington Post reported.
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A growing number of Japanese nationals are protesting the hunt each year, and Mr O’Barry believes that ongoing education will see the practice phased out.
‘It’s all about showing up’: Key to dolphin activism
Despite describing himself as “always tired”, Mr O’Barry isn’t retiring any time soon, but he doesn’t know where his stamina comes from.
“I just keep doing it. It’s like breathing,” Mr O’Barry said.
“It’s kind of like asking me how do you keep breathing, I don’t think about that any more, I just breathe.”
In the world of computer activism, he believes change occurs by physically protesting, and resisting.
“I’m computer illiterate, I don’t even own a computer,” he said.
“It’s all about showing up. Real activists show up.
Progress being made as laws ban dolphin capture
Despite the depressing side of his work, Mr O’Barry said he can see progress being made.
He was particularly elated by news that the state of NSW would be banning the breeding and capture of dolphins, following similar legislation passed in France and Canada.
Paying penance for his time as a young man capturing dolphins for marine parks, and working on the 60’s television show Flipper, nothing now gives him greater joy than releasing dolphins back into the ocean.
His activism was directly sparked by the loss of Flipper who died in his arms. The very next day he flew to the Bahamas and was arrested after setting a dolphin free.
“There are some days where we actually rehabilitate and release dolphins back into the wild,” he said.
“Words fail when I try to explain how I feel about that — you’re literally giving them their lives back.
“Most dolphins that are captured lose their lives, they don’t get their lives back.”
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In May of 2001, two bottlenose dolphins were languishing in a crude holding pit in the mountains of Santa Lucia Milpas Atlas, Guatemala. Both dolphins – a male named Turbo and a female named Ariel, had been captured from the wild and brought to the mountains by truck fourteen months earlier. Their captors were in the process of training them to perform in shows in the infamous traveling dolphin circus known as Water Land/Mundo Marino, when the Guatemalan environmental organization, MadreSelva, discovered the primitive operation. MadreSelva immediately alerted the authorities and asked them to look into the legality of Water Land´s captive dolphin training camp.
Water Land operates out of Margarita Island in Venezuela. Ruben Roca, the owner of the same traveling dolphin show that had illegally held Cheryl the Russian navy dolphin until her death, abandoned Ariel and Turbo when Guatemalan authorities instigated proceedings against him for their illegal capture.
Roca had left the dolphins in a shallow, stagnant pit, which had been dug with a backhoe. The hole was inserted with a white plastic liner, and a three foot high cement wall topped it off. The dolphin trainers had taken the fish freezer and parts of the filtration system with them when they fled the country in the middle of the night. As a result, the filtration system was not working, and the dolphins were literally living in a cesspool. According to eye witnesses, the pit had originally contained four dolphins. It is presumed that the two missing dolphins, named Sammy and Pinky, were transported to Water Land´s base in Margarita Island.
Dolphin Project, which at the time was working with the World Society of the Protection of Animals (WSPA) was initially contacted by Ms. Magali Rey Rosa of MadreSelva. When Ric and Helene O’Barry showed up in the remote mountain location to inspect Water Land´s dolphin training camp on June 1st, they found Ariel and Turbo floating listlessly on the surface of the foul-smelling water.
The dolphins were malnourished and dehydrated, and their skin was discolored from the contaminated water. Rocca’s rented house and the pit he had dug for the dolphins was located at an elevation of more than 6,000 feet. The altitude had played havoc with the dolphins’ health, and they had not eaten in several days.
Ric and Helene set up camp next to the pit and implemented first-aid. The filthy water was pumped out, and the bacteria-ridden liner was scrubbed clean. The pit was refilled with 25 tanker-trucks of fresh city water as well as 2400 pounds of salt. A new heavy duty swimming pool filtration system was installed. They fed the dolphins freshly-caught fish injected with water and electrolytes in order to re-hydrate them.
While Helene and Dr. Juan Carlos Murillo, a WSPA veterinarian, nursed the two dolphins back to health with fresh fish, vitamins and antibiotics, Ric flew to the edge of the Guatemalan jungle by helicopter provided by the Guatemalan Army to search for a site to build a sea pen. An ideal site was chosen when pods of resident bottlenose dolphins were spotted from the air. With the help of the Guatemalan army, a huge sea pen was erected in record time in Graciosa Bay, on the bayside of the Manabique Peninsula.
It took more than five weeks of negotiations between the Guatemalan government, MasdreSelva and WSPA to secure the dolphins´ release. While the negotiations went on, members of the dolphin captivity industry tried to roadblock our efforts. For the dolphins, this was a do-or-die situation: They could not survive in the holding pit much longer.
The authorities finally awarded custody to WSPA, and on July 12th Ariel and Turbo were transported out of the mountains and back to the sea.
The Guatemalan navy provided a truck that would transport the dolphins from Santa Lucia Milpas Altas to the airport in Guatemala City. The dolphin rescue team had received death threats a few days earlier, and police and army personnel escorted the truck the entire way.
From Guatemala City, the dolphins were transported by plane to the naval base in Puerto Barrios. From there, it was just a 20-minute helicopter ride to the awaiting sea pen in Graciosa Bay where, for the first time in over a year, Ariel and Turbo once again experienced real sea water and a spacious environment. Never again would they have to perform tricks in order to be fed. The healing process could begin.
While the remote site at the edge of the Guatemalan jungle was ideal for rehabilitating dolphins, it posed many challenges for the dolphin rescue team. Ric and Helene were dropped off in the jungle with very few supplies, and as they saw the helicopter take off and disappear, they had no idea where they were going to spend the night. Just before dark, they found a small platform that could be used as a camp site. Here, they were safe from panthers, crocodiles, poisonous snakes and the large pack of wild dogs that lived in the area.
Ariel and Turbo had only spent a short time in captivity and were perfect candidates for release. They had spent enough time in the wild prior to their capture to know how to survive, which fish to catch and how to avoid predators. Once introduced to the large sea pen, they showed no interest in humans whatsoever, and they had not forgotten how to hunt live prey. They spent most of their time leaping, diving and catching fish in the deep end of the sea pen. A pod of resident bottlenose dolphins entered Graciosa Bay twice a day to hunt for fish and each time visited the sea pen.
Ariel and Turbo were rehabilitated using the Dolphin Project protocol. On the day of their release back into the wild, they were quickly adopted by the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. Both Ariel and Turbo were seen together by local fishermen one year later. Turbo was spotted again on January 2003 in the Sarstoon River, which form a portion of the border between Belize and Guatemala. He was swimming with a group of wild dolphins.
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Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible as authorized by law.
© 2021 Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. All Rights Reserved.
171 Pier Ave. #234
Santa Monica, CA 90405
The dolphin drive hunts that take place each year in Taiji, Japan, have garnered international attention as the world has learned about the mass slaughter of dolphins and the ruthless captive selection process. These brutal hunts are documented by our team of Cove Monitors each season, and shared with the international public so that attention may be drawn to this outdated and unnecessarily cruel practice.
Please help today by taking the following action steps:
Share your pledge on social media and encourage others to join you!
4. JOIN DOLPHIN PROJECT ON THE FRONT LINES IN TAIJI
Were you inspired by Ric O’Barry in “The Cove”? Learn more about becoming a volunteer Dolphin Project Cove Monitor.
Your support is critical to our mission. If your employer has a matching gifts program, your donation could be doubled or even tripled!
6. HAVE A COVE OR BLACKFISH PARTY AND HELP EDUCATE OTHERS
Host a movie night at your house and watch “The Cove” or “Blackfish”to educate others about dolphin captivity issues.
7. GET CREATIVE
Have a personal goal you’ve always wanted to accomplish? Want to help protect dolphins? Learn how by creating your very own fundraiser.
Think of unique ways to raise awareness in your community. Visit our VOLUNTEER PAGE for ideas.
Let your voice be heard for dolphins! Education and spreading the word are key, so follow our social media accounts and share our posts with your friends.
9. WEAR your support for dolphins! SHOP authentic Dolphin Project gear.
All proceeds support our international campaigns, and it’s a great way to start a conversation.
10. CONTACT THE AUTHORITIES
Help us get the word out! Please contact these authorities and let’s end this senseless slaughter once and for all.
WAZA: The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
AZA: The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Media Contact: Rob Vernon (301)244-3352 | Email: email@example.com
IMATA: The International Marine Mammal Trainers’ Association
PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga
Cabinet Public Relations Office, Cabinet Secretariat,
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100 – 8968, Japan
Online comment form #1: https://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/forms/comment_ssl.html
Japanese Embassies Worldwide:
Websites of Japanese Embassies, Consulates and Permanent Missions
List of Embassies and Consulates-General in Japan:
List of Embassies and Consulates-General in Japan
US Embassy in Japan:
William Hagerty IV – Ambassador of the United States to Japan
Send E-mail to the U.S. Embassy in Japan
Japan Cabinet Office
Comment/Question for Cabinet Office
Wakayama Prefecture Office, Fishery Division:
International Whaling Commission (IWC)
The Red House,
135 Station Road,
Cambridgeshire CB24 9NP, UK.
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 233 971
Fax: +44 (0) 1223 232 87
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / Convention on Migratory Species (CMP)
Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1
53113 Bonn, Germany
Tel: (+49 228) 815 2401
Fax: (+49 228) 815 2449
Japan Fisheries Public Content Form:
Contact the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries
US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations:
US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible as authorized by law.
© 2020 Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. All Rights Reserved.
171 Pier Ave. #234
Santa Monica, CA 90405
By Liz Langley 7-9 minutes
PUBLISHED June 25, 2020
Bottlenose dolphins hunt in French Polynesia’s Rangiroa Channel. The marine mammals use two types of tools to find food, a rare behavior in nature.Photograph by Greg Lecoeur, Nat Geo Image Collection
In Shark Bay, Australia, bottlenose dolphinsthat aren’t related have been observed teaching each other a new way to use a tool, a behavior that until now scientists have found only in humans and other great apes.
It’s also the first known example of dolphins transmitting such knowledge within the same generation, rather than between generations. That’s significant, the authors say, because such social learning between peers is rare in nature.
In a practice called shelling, dolphins will chase fish into abandoned giant snail shells on the seafloor, then bring the shells to the surface shake them with their noses, draining the water and catching the fish that fall out.
Dolphin mothers generally teach their young how to hunt: Shark Bay dolphin moms, for instance, teach their offspring sponging, another form of tool use in which dolphins put sponges on their beaks to protect them while foraging among rocks. (Explore our interactive of the tools animals use.).
A Shark Bay dolphin practices shelling, one of only two known examples of tool use in the cetaceans.Photograph by Sonja Wild, Dolphin Innovation Project
“The fact that shelling is socially transmitted among dolphin peers rather than between mother and offspring sets an important milestone, and highlights similarities with certain primates, who also rely on both vertical and horizontal learning of foraging behavior,” senior study author Michael Krützen, an anthropologist at the University of Zurich, said in a press statement.
Though dolphins and great apes have very different evolutionary histories and habitats, they’re both long-lived, large-brained mammals with tremendous capacity for innovation and culture, Krützen says.
Maggie Stanton, a psychologist at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, who has studied Shark Bay dolphins and chimpanzees at Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, agrees. One chimp family in Gombe, she notes, may have learned how to use tools to extract ants from a female chimp that joined the community.
Cracking a mystery
In 2007, Krützen launched a study of Shark Bay’s dolphins, identifying more than a thousand individual dolphins over 11 years. During this time, scientists observed shelling 42 times among 19 dolphins. Half of these events occurred after a marine heatwave in 2011, which may have caused a die-off among giant sea snails, leading to more discarded shells on the seafloor. (Read about a new species of dolphin discovered in Australia.)