CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 1999
Over millions of years the dolphins have used their superior intelligence to survive in a hostile environment. They are not the fastest animal in the sea; their archenemy the shark can outrun them, nor is it the best protected, like a turtle, but it is the brightest.Dolphins are a remarkably intelligent animal and are both acrobatic and social. These qualities have been and continue to be the main attraction for humans who have been capturing bottlenose dolphins from the Northern Bahamas for shipment to marine parks all over the globe. Dolphins remain in the same area for their entire lives. This trait means that, when they are removed from that area, they are not replaced. Ken Balcomb and his wife, marine biologist Diane Claridge, have been studying the bottlenose dolphin population for over five years. They take the opportunity given them as the 'champions' of this video to concentrate on the ethical questions raised by the capture of animals from the wild for human entertainment.
Diane and Ken have conducted several successful campaigns against penning these animals: they campaigned successfully to have 'Treasure Island', a local park where humans could swim with captive animals, closed down and dismantled. They were also instrumental in implementing a 10% capture rate limit. The difficulty with this limit is that no one was sure how many dolphins there originally were. This situation was what caused Ken and Diane to start their project. Ken and Diane had studied orcas in the Pacific Northwest and used this experience to start photographing, studying and cataloguing the family groups of dolphins. After years of study, they have now identified roughly 100 dolphins in this group.
The most fascinating story in this video is that of one of Treasure Island's captive dolphins, Bahama Mama, who, after 17 years in captivity, broke through the pens and escaped. Her only hope was that she had learned survival skills from her mother and could remember them, even 17 years later. Much of the argument for keeping captive animals is that they would no longer be able to take care of themselves and would have little chance for survival in the wild. Ken and Diane were ecstatic when they found Bahama Mama as part of a dolphin group six months after her escape. This event has in part dispelled the myth that released captive dolphins wouldn't have a chance of surviving in the wild.
The filming in this video is beautiful. The music and narration help the video rather than intruding on it. There are shots of dolphins in several situations, including the birth of a baby, but the main focus of the video is the ethical question of making dolphins into captives. This would be an excellent video for a discussion on ethics, as well as environmental issues and conservation.
Betsy Fraser is a librarian with the Calgary Public Library.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.