One teacher and one parent accompanied the eight kids to the infamous Cove where every year from September 1 to March 30 fisherman go out daily and hunt for dolphins. Gecko Community began its fight for the dolphins over a year ago when they discovered a dolphinarium was opening in Phuket.
The kids fundraised for their trip by embarking on another 100km bike ride to JW Marriott in Khao Lak before they flew out to Japan.
Gecko believes that no one is too small to make a difference and instills in their kids that they are the changes that will happen in the future.
“Returning to the Cove is not always an easy thing to do if you have been there before. Once you have seen a dolphin pod drive and slaughter it stays with you and I was not looking forward to experiencing that again after seeing it three times on our last trip,” says teacher Celi Harper.
Luckily, on this visit for the Gecko kids, each day they monitored was a blue cove day, meaning that no drive hunt successfully herded dolphins for either slaughter or capture. On the day they arrived a pod of Rissos dolphins had been slaughtered that morning and two were taken for a lifetime in captivity to perform tricks in the same way, as the dolphins here in the Phuket show have to do, daily.
The day after they left, a pod of bottlenose was captured and fifteen were slaughtered and an additional five were taken into captivity for dolphin shows around the world. Three juveniles were driven back out to sea with little chance of survival without their mothers to nurse from and without adult pod members to help guide and look after them.
Under the very watchful eye of Taiji police the kids rose at 5am every morning and drove to the harbour, counted the boats leaving and then made their way to the lookout point to monitor the boats. Often it was hours before the boats returned empty handed but a blue cove could not be called until every boat was back in the harbour.
The kids visited the small sea pens where the captured dolphins were kept, starved and trained before being shipped off around the world. One would expect kids to be really excited when they saw dolphins close up for the first time but it was quite the opposite.
“I think because we had done so much work at Gecko on captivity by having a full ‘Kids in Captivity’ day earlier in the year and then ‘Kids in Captivity Cage Challenge’ the week before we left, the kids really did empathise with the dolphins in the pens, their faces were full of sadness,” ref lects Celi.
Many of the dolphins had ‘rake’ marks all over them in particular the Rissos, their bodies were completely covered. Raking happens when dolphins in captivity are held in tiny areas, the stress of it results in aggression. Rake marks are caused when the teeth of dominant dolphins scrape the skin of the less aggressive ones.
Unlike last time, the Gecko kids stopped off in Osaka for four days after leaving Taiji to present at international schools about what is happening in Taiji. It was alarming how many kids had swam with dolphins or attended dolphin shows but no one knew where these dolphins originated.
It was very clear after presenting at only a couple of schools that education is the key to help stop this barbaric act that happens in Taiji and to stop dolphin and orca captivity globally.
Gecko Community is committed to continue to work very closely with the Phuket Says No to Dolphin Shows campaign to help spread awareness and education in the community in both international and Thai schools, businesses, hotels and other places.
It does not matter whether the dolphins who are performing daily at the Nemo Phuket Dolphins Show originated from Taiji or not, all dolphins were once free and forcing them to breed in captivity does not make it okay.
In addition, even if these dolphins allegedly were not from Taiji, the next lot of dolphins most likely will be, and will have to be replaced, as captive dolphins do not do well in captivity at all.
From an educational viewpoint, keeping dolphins in captivity for human amusement is not education, it is just plain cruel. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to support that seeing cetaceans in captivity holds any educational value whatsoever.
Gecko would like to thank the following for their support: Ric O’ Barry’s Dolphin Project, Phuket Says No to Dolphin Shows, Vista Del Mar, Aqua One, Yoga Republic, Pura Organic, John Gray’s Sea Canoe, Anthem Wake Park, Simba Sea Trips, Lemongrass, and Dewa Hotel.