Our oceans are in trouble and our focus here at Awesome Ocean is to bring that plight to the masses. We are also determined to showcase the people, organizations and facilities on the the front lines of ocean conservation.
Globally our oceans are feeling the anthropogenic impact. Our growing population is putting even greater demands on our oceans – for a host of reasons.
In the western world (Europe and the Americas), major conservation projects have been moving forward. Most of those facilities, and the public that supports them, understand the vital role they play in preserving and protecting the ocean and its inhabitants. However, it is in Asia where there is a lot of work still to do. Because of the culture and tradition of many of these people – there is still great pressure put on marine life.
But that is changing – however incrementally – and we must recognize and support that change.
One such instance is the Marine Life Park in Singapore. It is one of Singapore’s newest facilities and it is striving to find a way to meaningfully help protect and conserve ocean life.
When I learned that Marine Life Park had just become the second zoological facility in Asia to become AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited, I had to see and visit the facility for myself. After all, to be AZA accredited, Marine Life Park had to meet the strictest criteria. That is currently a rare feat in this part of the world.
The Marine Life Park is broken up into two sections – the S.E.A. Aquarium and Dolphin Island. The S.E.A. Aquarium, or South East Asia Aquarium, displays native fish, sharks, and rays that call South East Asia waters home. Dolphin Island is a dolphin interaction experience that displays Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins a species that used to be common to see in the waters around Singapore. That is until destruction, pollution, and development put an end to their natural environment.
Of course, rather than bothering with the truth – keyboard activists and Internet bullies have attempted to turn this visit into a personal attack. As we see over and over again, it’s never about education or persuasion from that side. It’s about abuse and threats for anyone who does not conform to the narrative. These extremists have tried to attack me personally over this visit.
But what’s really going on here?
Rather than get into the mud where these people live, this presents a great opportunity to use the attention for the forces of good. So let’s take a moment and speak the truth about this facility and why it’s great that this park is making inroads in this part of the world.
First, the main attack has come from the fact that the dolphins at this facility were collected from the Solomon Islands in 2007 – a chain of islands a few hundred miles north of Australia. So, without looking any further into the issue – the attack was launched. The fact that these dolphins were collected recently is all that matters.
But here is, as the late Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
This facility purchased these dolphins from locals in the Solomon Islands who have hunted dolphins for the last few hundred years. Similar to subsistence hunting in Alaska, they eat the meat of the dolphins and use their teeth and bones for clothing and jewelry. Again, it’s something these people have been doing for generations.
In 2007, Marine Life Park offered the local population money to purchase some of the dolphins. Dolphins that would otherwise be slaughtered. The local villages accepted, and because of that 20+ dolphins were saved out of the traditional 100 that are hunted. Those lucky dolphins now live at the AZA accredited Marine Life Park.
As a side note, Ric O’Barry, an infamous animals activist, would also offer to pay the locals to not hunt dolphins in 2013. However, O’Barry welched on his agreement. Because of his actions, the locals killed almost 1,000 dolphins – the equivalent of almost 10 years of hunts. They also learned not to trust westerners and will likely resist ending this practice even more now.
But back to our story.
Let’s be clear – no one is a fan of simply going out and collecting wild animals for public display.
However, what needs to be celebrated is that Dolphin Island at the Marine Life Park has now joined the AZA.
This means that as long as they are a member of the AZA they cannot participate in drive fisheries. This is an amazing accomplishment that needs to be praised. Despite the fact that activists think you are too stupid to find the truth – having a park in this part of the world that understands and commits to ending wild collection and abiding by the AZA regulations is a huge victory.
It’s a step forward in a part of the world where dolphins are largely not viewed the way the western world views them. But we know – angry tweets and publicity stunts get media attention – not science.
The infamous “BlackFish Star” Naomi Rose, who was famously a part of the botched Keiko Release project, is being hosted at the M Hotel in Singapore – not to visit Dolphin Island, but to criticize and condemn it without ever setting foot inside. She has never talked to the trainers or animal care team. She hasn’t even bothered to see the animals.
Why? Because it is never about the science. The truth doesn’t sell. Controversy sells. The animals are just bit players.
At Awesome Ocean we spend a lot of time bringing out tough topics and exploring them in-depth. We don’t just rely on Twitter mobs and drive-by hashtags. We hope that, like us, you take the time to find the truth because there are a lot of people out there with a vested interest in hiding it from you.
So take a hard look at the world around you – including zoological organizations and marine facilities. But don’t be a lemming and rely on 140 hate-filled characters and celebrity wannabe scientists. If a facility like Marine Life Park can get a foothold in this part of the world and promote the standards and regulations of organizations like the AZA – then we should support that.
It’s the only way we can change the minds of people who have long viewed marine animals in a very different light than the rest of us.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, zoological facilities in Asia need to be praised when they help elevate the standard of animal care in this part of the world.
That is exactly what the Marine Life Park in Singapore is doing, and why it deserves our praise.