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Blood Dolphins: Someone is Saving Our Smiling Ocean Friends

  • Written by  Fran Simmons
Dolphins are great surfers! Dolphins are great surfers!

All of us who care about blue skies, clean air and water, our children’s futures and life on earth are looking for ways to make our world safer and more beautiful.

It seems hopeless and heartbreaking sometimes, but I’m here to tell you some good news about one of the world’s most effective conservation heroes: dolphin-saver Ric O’Barry.

In the 1960s, O’Barry captured dolphins and other marine life for captivity entertainment programs. He trained dolphins for the famously charming Flipper television shows and movies.

They protect humans from sharks, but who protects them from humans?

In his book, Behind the Dolphin Smile, O’Barry describes how he gradually realized that dolphins were sentient, wise beings, and how this led him to question his involvement in training and capturing dolphins.

Dolphins are not fish. As marine mammals, they have families, advanced language, individual personalities and self-awareness…they even have the ability to literally see into and through your body!

"Dolphins are sophisticated, self-aware, highly intelligent beings with individual personalities, autonomy and an inner life. They are vulnerable to tremendous suffering and psychological trauma," explains Emory University neuroscientist Lori Marino.

O’Barry soon realized that dolphins belong where Nature meant them to be: free-swimming in oceans and rivers.

At the same time, he was seeing dolphins die because of captivity, fishing and deliberate killing.

Ric O’Barry left the captive dolphin industry and engaged in civil disobedience to protect and free dolphins.

O’Barry risked his life and freedom to liberate a captive dolphin that was starving to death in a captive pen in Bimini. He freed another two-dozen captive dolphins during missions that would have made James Bond proud.

In the last two decades, he’s traveled the world to take on organized commercial dolphin killers, capturers and exploiters.

In 2010, a hard-hitting movie about the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins by Japanese fishermen won the Oscar for Best Documentary.

The movie—The Cove—is as exciting as any smash box office hit thriller or crime movie, but it’s not fiction, it’s for real.

The Cove shows O’Barry and a team of conservationists, journalists, filmmakers, professional divers, and special ops professionals using ingenious undercover tactics and sheer courage to get cinematic proof of the brutal yearly slaughter of hundreds of dolphins.

The movie also exposes how humans view non-human sentient creatures, the worldwide trade in dolphins for SeaWorld and other “entertainment” parks, and the corruption of the International Whaling Commission, which looks the other way while dolphins and whales are illegally slaughtered.

After The Cove won the Oscar, O’Barry and his son Lincoln were featured in an Animal Planet documentary series, Blood Dolphins.

Watching the series, I realized that Ric O’Barry (through his Dolphin Project at Earth Island Institute) is one of few international conservationists actually succeeding at creating political agreements that work on-site to protect endangered animals.

The exciting Animal Planet series shows O’Barry’s battle to stop dolphins from continuing to be sold or killed in the Solomon Islands.

O’Barry and his son turned themselves into anthropologists, negotiators, detectives, activists, and tough guys as they confronted dolphin exporters.

They were threatened with violence, but still went to remote island villages, listening to the concerns of poverty-stricken islanders who depended on dolphin killing for their survival.

Displaying levels of respect, patience, wisdom and strength you wish you’d see at the United Nations, O’Barry’s team created win-win agreements that helped end dolphin killing.

The villagers were happy, O’Barry was happy, and the region’s dolphins are safer...for now.

In fact, O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is credited with doing what no other environmental organization has so single-handedly been able to do: convince people and their governments to stop harming non-human mammals like dolphins.

But O’Barry cannot rest. Dolphins are under the gun worldwide.

In Brazil, fishermen kill river dolphins and use them as catfish bait. China so ruined its epic Yangtze River that it completely killed off a white-colored, blind species of river dolphin called the baiji, known to Chinese as the Goddesses of the Yangtze.

BP’s explosion, oil spill and use of Corexit dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico has poisoned or killed Gulf dolphins.

In India, there are only a handful of Indus River dolphins left.

The U.S. Navy not only captures and enslaves dolphins to use them as bomb detectors, it also creates horrific levels of unnecessary underwater noise that tortures dolphins and whales.

All over the world, dolphins are dying because climate change and other anthropogenic activities are ruining the oceans and directly attacking dolphins…and yet the Japanese continue to kill thousands of dolphins a year, even though The Cove exposed the blood-red waters of the hidden cove where the massacres take place.

Of course, some people don’t care about dolphins or any other non-human species.

But Barry’s Dolphin Smile makes it clear that when we destroy oceans, dolphins and whales, we’re killing creatures who are evolutionarily more sane and kind than humans will ever be.

Why? Because the human brain is a relatively new evolutionary product, with a mish-mash of evolutionary-developed systems that aren’t optimally interfaced or balanced.

In contrast, dolphin and whale brains are much larger, and have had far longer to evolve.

O’Barry, neuroscientists, and others who’ve studied dolphins (absent the typical “we humans are the best life form on this planet” attitude) will tell you dolphins are kind, bright, highly-conscious, gentle, helpful, loyal, peaceful, cooperative, pleasant and skilled in ways humans can never be.

That’s why dolphins have been known to protect humans from sharks.

But who protects dolphins from us?

We’re killing their oceans…killing dolphins so we can eat tuna, killing them to use as catfish bait, imprisoning them in SeaWorld, humiliating them by punitively training them to perform stupid pet tricks, forcing them to be in the U.S. military, slowly but surely killing them off.

The simple fact is that unless we all get together right now and support Ric O’Barry and people like him, we may lose the dolphin’s smile forever.

What You Can Do:

Boycott SeaWorld and all captive dolphin/whale “entertainment” parks.

Donate to Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project

Share The Cove DVD with Family & Friends

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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 13:52

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