Thursday, March 25, 2010


Even though my wife and I live in Japan, we heard of the incident with Tilikum the whale at Sea World. I made me curious, which was odd, since I normally didn't think about those things.

I have been doing a lot of reading ever since hearing about Tilikum the whale, and the "incident" with Dawn Brancheau. The more I read, the more I wanted to "see" what I wasn't getting before.

I just finished reading this article I wanted to share with those that were in my position, and didn't really care, becuase I didn't really KNOW.

Dolphin trader has a change of heart, decides to set them free

Chris Porter, a controversial dolphin trader with a lucrative business capturing the animals in the Solomon Islands and selling them to aquariums, says he has had a change of heart and is planning to release his last 17 dolphins.

Porter, a marine mammal trainer, trained Tillikum the killer whale when he was at Sealand in Victoria and then became Vancouver Aquarium's head trainer. In his latest career, Porter has sold 83 dolphins around the world in the past nine years, drawing the fury of animal-rights groups.

"To be sure, I have a bad name. I have been deemed the Darth Vader of dolphins," said Porter in an interview.

"But I have decided to release the remaining animals back to the wild. It's driven by the incident with Tillikum and I'm disillusioned with the industry," said Porter, who splits his time between Victoria and the Solomon Islands.

Late last month, Tillikum pulled SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheur by her ponytail off her poolside platform, drowning her. Porter said the news shook him, and proved trainers have been unable to provide for the needs of such an intelligent animal.

Another catalyst for his decision to quit was the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, which shows the bloody capture and slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Porter, who used to believe some animals must be captive educational ambassadors for their species, is beginning to doubt the value of shows, where animals are forced to perform tricks.

"Are we really educating and providing the best representation of wild animals in an aquarium?" he asked.

The artificial, sterile environment in which most marine mammals are kept bears little resemblance to their habitat. Killer whales are likely to become frustrated, increasing the chance they will lash out, he said.

But from the start of the Solomons project, Porter said he saw himself as saving dolphins, which were being slaughtered by the thousands by islanders there, who used their teeth as currency.

Hunters have now been educated to realize there can be a much larger value in dolphins, Porter said.

"When I got there a dolphin was worth $20, and last year dolphins were worth $140,000," he said.

Porter's Free-the-Pod venture is likely to have high-profile support from some of his former fiercest opponents.

Among them is activist Ric O'Barry, a marine mammal specialist for California-based Earth Island Institute. In the 1960s, he trained dolphins for the Flipper television series before dedicating himself to freeing captive dolphins.

Now, understand me, I'm not a player in the game who makes money. I merely had an opinion that I truly believed in, and was glad to voice it.

I was in favor of killing whales for food, dolphins, sharks, etc. because I wasn't really looking at it from a different perspective. Perhaps living in Japan had an influence on my opinion, perhaps it didn't. I really can't say how my opinion was formed, but, I can say it has certainly changed.

I was able to get my hands on a copy of The Cove, after hearing about Tilikum. I watched the movie, put two and two together, I couldn't help but see a different angle.

The movie really made me see what I didn't see before, the barbaric way that these poor dolphins are killed for profit, and the "fishermen" that put the species at risk for the sake of exploitation.

I highly recommend that anyone watch The Cove, and discover for yourself what is really happening. Turning a blind eye is the easy way out, and I will no longer follow that path.

Sign me up for ending the terror on the planet and the exploited species living among us, because I want the future generations to have not only what I had, but better.