Endear the Wild
To keep dolphins wild, is to keep dreams and aspirations alive.
What’s the difference? This could be the most profound question that has been asked. And the answer is that there is no difference. Why then is there so much attention being given to these dolphins while so many animals are being caught and traded for zoos? Dolphins and whales are ambassadors of freedom and of being wild. Free Willy, Flipper, and countless other movies were about dolphins that wanted to return to the wild, and of the humans that helped them achieve their freedom. There are few things as reminiscent of freedom as the image of wild dolphins leaping in the vast open oceans, and riding the bow waves of ships. If we cannot let wild the ambassadors of freedom, what more can we do for the animals with which this sense is less explicit?
So compelling was the story of Free Willy, that following the premiere of the movie in 1993, millions of children around the world put their money together to return Keiko, the whale who portrayed Willy in the movie, home to his native waters. This endeavor to keep dolphins wild is not an issue of all-or-nothing. Rather, if we can’t keep these symbols of freedom free, then we have a really tough battle ahead of us for all other wild animals that are currently, or that could potentially be in captivity.
Signs of maturity
Why did animal welfarists and the community at large not campaign to halt the import of the dolphins for Dolphin Lagoon in 2001? It wasn’t because they were okay with it; it was because they were not ready. It was the first time Singapore had captive dolphins. Awareness was low and people were still trying to understand the implications of including such a form of entertainment in our society. Animal welfare groups had yet to organize themselves to engage stakeholders effectively and appropriately.
That such a campaign, that includes regional stakeholders from the point of origin in the Solomon Islands, to the places of transit in Malaysia and the Philippines, is a reflection of how animal welfare organisations have grown and matured in Singapore over the past decade. That community members are open to voice their concerns and express their desire for ethical, holistic, and authentic forms of entertainment and education implies that we are not only more educated, but that we have grown wiser, kinder, and that we are today willing to participate and help influence the structure of our community. Singaporeans have become of age, and we no longer subsist for ourselves, but can now offer support for the greater, global community, even if these members are of another species.
asia! IN A SNAP
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