Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Illusive smiles: The real story behind the dolphins of Ocean Park Adventure

Student Producer/ Co-host: Arra B. Francia
Episode: October 8, 2014
Guest: Trixie Concepcion, Regional Director, Earth Island Institute

Dolphins have this strange feature that makes them look like they’re smiling all the time. Miss Trixie Concepcion, regional director of Earth Island Institute Philippines explained this to Ma’am Khrysta and I during last week’s episode of Kwentuhang Pets at iba pa. Muscles in their mouth actually stretch till the sides of their chin, to help dolphins produce sounds to communicate with each other. So no matter what state you see them in, they’d always look up with a perpetual smile on their face.

Tonka was a dolphin. He was born in the wild about 18 years ago. He was meant to swim the oceans and explore the waters with his pod --- carefree and without boundaries. But with a terrible twist of fate that happened a decade ago, he was taken from his home and locked up inside an aquarium, only to entertain humans who amused themselves with animal shows. And as if being taken away from your family and used by other species for fun wasn’t enough, pause right there. It gets worse.

On September 17, Tonka, the last of six false-killer whales in Ocean Park- Subic was declared dead because of an alleged intestinal problem.

Tonka’s case reflects one of the many cases of the terrors behind animal captivity. Since its establishment in 2001, Ocean Park has already witnessed the death of six of its false killer whales, four bottle-nosed dolphins and one sea lion.

An administrative order issued to the Department of Agriculture in 1992 bans the “taking or catching, selling, purchasing, possessing, transporting and exporting of dolphins” in the country. The animal facility, however, justifies its possession of these marine animals by exporting them from the annual Japanese drive hunt. In 2007, a total of 1, 623 dolphins were caught for human consumption and for resale to animal facilities like Ocean Park. You could hear the indignation of Miss Trixie’s voice while relating this to the listeners of the radio show. Not only do humans once again assert their power as the higher species, but they also exploit the weakness of animals in such drive hunts.

Being usually nonchalant about matters like this, I felt like my eyes were seeing these animals for the first time. I always say that I love animals. My family actually owns two dogs and seven cats right now. But the love I felt was reserved for my pets alone. While doing for the radio show, I was finding out more about the animal kingdom than I ever did in my life. It is hard not to get enraged when you read the news about rabbits being skinned, monkeys pierced in their eyes with high heels and dolphins being taken out of the wild for animal shows.  Though I know I won’t be a vegan or an animal activist after the show, my compassion for these animals has taken on a different level.

Now all I can imagine is how Tonka was still smiling at the last moments of his life. It’s a cruel trick played by nature, mastered all the more by the brutality of some people. If Tonka was able to show what he really felt, I’m sure it would have been the face of absolute terror and misery, not gladness.

From left to right: Student producer Arra, Ma'am Khrysta and guest Trixie Concepcion in the DZUP studio discussing the issues on animal captivity.

We pose for a group photo after the episode.

***In case you missed this episode, click here for the transcript to know exactly what we discussed and here for the audio recording.
Happy listening!

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