The Online Citizen

Ric O'Barry: We can save the planet by controlling our desires

October 07
16:18 2011

~by: Elisabelle Aruldoss~

ACRES hosted an open dialogue session with influential dolphin activist, Mr Ric O’Barry, on 4th October at the Grand Copthorne Hotel. The event saw a successful turn-out as a long line of eager people started queuing up in front of the conference hall, anticipating the start of the session.

Video clips of spirited dolphins roaming free in the oceans, messages from celebrities pleading against captivity, and a sombre message from popular primatologist, Jane Goodall, captivated the audience of about 1000 as they took their seats while anxiously awaiting the arrival of Mr O’ Barry.

A standing ovation by the excited audience indicated the arrival of Mr O’ Barry as he made his way down the aisle, at approximately 7.30pm.

The evening started off with a brief but informative presentation by Acres’ President, Mr Louis Ng. In his presentation, Mr Ng explained the plight of the captive dolphins and emphasized the importance of public awareness. Mr Ng also expressed concern for the questions that they have been profusely asking Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) for a few months, which have not been answered to date.

Mr Ng added that, “Every single thing about captivity is artificial for them”, and informed the audience of a report commissioned by the Solomon Islands government which indicated that bottlenose dolphins (that were tracked) swam 113km in 10 days. He went on to question the audience whether they can provide that sort of environment in captivity.

Mr Ng also echoed  famous zoologist, Mark Carwardine, who said, “Anyone who says it is okay to keep dolphins in captivity is a liar or unbelievably naive. And it’s totally wrong – morally and ethically – to swim with captive dolphins.”

Mr Ng ended his presentation by urging the audience to be active in the petition to save the dolphins and to spread awareness before finally welcoming Mr Ric O’ Barry onto the stage to begin the dialogue session.

“You can have a successful aquarium without having live dolphins.”

During the dialoge, a you g participant asked “Is there anything more that students or school communities can do to help this cause apart from signing the petition”. Mr O’ Barry replied that finding out who will get involved is exactly the purpose of the session. Mr Ng interjected, adding that Acres will persevere until the dolphins are released.

Mr Ng also reiterated that students can play their part by spreading awareness. He said “Go to our website ‘saddest’; there is a Facebook icon, click it to like the Facebook page”.

“What more can we do with the government?”, another concerned participant asked, “I have written letters to them and they haven’t replied. There are perfect examples like the Monterey Bay Aquarium that teaches you how to be sustainable and it doesn’t have dolphins”. She added that the government of Singapore should realize what a bad shadow the captivity of dolphins is casting on our nation. “It (The government) should worry about what people think of Singapore”, she expressed.

At the mention of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, situated in California on the Pacific Ocean Shoreline, Mr O’Barry quickly responded that, “It is proof that you can have a successful aquarium without having live dolphins. There are many dolphins there and they are hanging from the ceiling made of plastic”.

He also stated that the external anatomy of the captive dolphin is the only thing that is similar to that of the wild dolphin, as he continued to inform the audience, “In captivity, their behaviour is so radically altered, the educational value is highly questionable.”

Mr O’Barry then complained, “How you get to the decision makers is the problem.” and joked, “You are always dealing with somebody at lower level and these guys are upstairs hiding under their desks.”

“How would you convince people who think that whale watching as an alternative would be too expensive?” another participant asked.

“A journalist was saying, ‘If the dolphins weren’t here, the kids wouldn’t get to see the dolphins’. The reality is, you can’t always get what you want”,  pausing briefly for the interruption of applause Mr O’Barry continued,  “The very same children would not get to see a snow leopard. Does that mean that we have to go to the Himalayas and drag a snow leopard here?”

“Do we teach our children to control their desires. I think that’s the most important thing in saving this planet – controlling our desires” , he emphasised.

Mr O’ Barry ended the dialogue by saying, “In a world where so much that is wild and free has already been lost to us, we must leave these beautiful animals free to swim as they will and must. They do us no harm and wish us none, and we should let them alone.”

Various alternatives in place of a dolphin show

As an aspiring wildlife conservationist, I feel that this event was an important one that helped answer many burning questions related to dolphin captivity and shed more light on the issue. The public needs to be aware that Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is a company that depends on consumer demand. Singaporean consumers, have the power to control the demand of ticket sales and we can help by not buying a ticket or not getting involved in any attraction with captive dolphins.

There are indeed various alternatives in place of a dolphin show.  RWS is already earning billions and I think they are fairly capable of thriving without a dolphin attraction. The question that constantly frustrates me is “why would RWS still insist on carrying on with the dolphin exhibition when so many are clearly against it?”

Ric O’ Barry’s wise words – controlling our desires- struck me as something that should be crucial to humans. We humans have consumed and destroyed too much of our fragile earth and the only way towards a sustainable world is to live by these words.

We cannot always do as we please and these dolphins are best left alone in their natural habitat.

Many people, who have already tried writing letters to no avail, have raised questions about what else they can do since RWS has not displayed the decency to respond to them.

Is the government also a party to this as they were the authority which awarded the preferred contract to RWS (Genting Highlands) which asserted that the dolphin exhibition should be one of their attractions?

If so, the best way to pressure the government would be to create awareness, to get more Singaporeans  involved in the issue and to action their involvement by writing letters to appropriate government agencies, their Members of Parliament,  and even to our Prime Minister.

  • yeoman

    first,i think we should try to SAVE JOBS instead of making people jobless.

    if we couldn’t care less whether our fellow human-biengs n co-workers survive or not,you think we would be really passionate about saving our ‘PLANET’ and all the trees n animals?

    just by looking at how people abandon their once beloved pet dogs or hamstrs or rabbits,we can tell roughly how uncompassionate and incosiderate they truly are.

    those who cliam they ‘LOVE ANIMALS’ and spend loads on feeding them and srooge on their fellow human-beings are merely trying to impress.They are in truth using the animlas,their pets’ for their own pleasures or status,nothing more.

    people should try to help their marginalised countrymen and fellow human-beings beofre tehy can truly ‘CARE; for the planet,ELSE,IT IS JUST one big bullshit!

  • popcorn

    No, dolphins are not magical creatures, they are just marine animals like whales and seals, the difference is they are highly intelligent, having an affinity with humans,
    As long as the Govt says they should entertain us, that’s it, no one would budge, not even Resorts World. The Govt holds the card in its hands.

  • Titiana Ann Xavier

    It is doubtful that the 25 dolphins in RWS are given the luxury of swimming 11.3km a day in their small congested ponds. Over a protracted period of time, the dolphins will lose their physical fitness and muscle atrophy sets in.

    Wild dolphins can live for 45 years. Captive dolphins have an average life span of only 5 years. It is therefore very cruel to imprison the dolphins. RWS’s refusal to release the dolphins back to the wild is not in conformity with civilized human decency.

  • Lee Kan Seng

    Yes, mr Barry . You are not wrong.

    But sorry, most sporliens are not even bothered or interested in activism bcos they are not yet 1st world westernised. They are asian 1st world only.

    Pls, we r sporliens . U can only expect negligible reaction from sporliens.

    They even bohchup politics and accept influx that hurt them because of nurturing and inheritted genes and there is only a weak culture of activism. They are activists in eating char kway teow , buy hello kitty, actively passive in socio-politics.

    Its about self.

  • Sarah Van Jacobs

    I find dolphins kept in captivity very upsetting and I am ashamed to look at myself in the mirror as a human being when I see how these animals are captured and then treated. It’s common sense if you watch them long enough to see they are desperately unhappy in captivity they are even prone to committing suicide… it is all such a waste of precious life. I don’t think the dolphins do tricks cause they want to… actually I think they do things cause they wanna eat some fishes… and that makes me feel so guilty… We get so amazed about swimming and being so close to the wildlife that you get so blind and then when you get real you have just made a big mistake thinking you were doing something so normal… And deep inside we always know that people fo everything for money. I am so sad to hear that because I love dolphins and I think they should live a good long life.

  • FJK

    Yeoman, no one is asking for the marine park to be closed. Jobs can still safe. If I’m not wrong, Ric O’Barry mentioned that the dolphin carers are still required to help work on reintroducing the dolphins back into the wild. It can be a long process.

  • Pingback: Dolphins to ACRES: Listen to this child « Thoughts of a Cynical Investor

  • ball smasher

    As I have said elsewhere, Ric should not come here with his holier than thou attitude. He can’t even achieve his aims from whence he came and now he is telling us what to do. We don’t need conquistadors here. Like his colleagues in other fields, their greed has put the world into a tail spin. Ric should go back and tell his ilk to show us the way by getting rid of all the zoos of all types.


    The logical extension of this whole affair is that we should get rid of pets, not keep any kind of animals under captivity, dismantle all zoos, stop Chinese medicine shops from selling rhino horns and other similar stuff, disallow sale of crocodile skin products, petition Ric O’ Barry to campaign against cruel English fox hunts, and ask O’ Barry to find jobs for affected RSW staff. Let’s be fair.

  • beachbum

    My opinion on Zoos. We can use zoos. Some zoos are more ethnical, while some zoos are bad. In china, it is said that a few private zoos have tigers for show, but at the back they are raising tigers for their products.
    We can’t save what we don’t know exist. The future kids have no connections to animals, when they grow up, they won’t bat an eyelid even if the animals or forests are gone. Some of us are luckier, when I was a kid, we get to see crabs crawl right across door steps. and some other wildlife. Luckily, no leopards and tigers here. so I was saying, the zoos is for the kids to learn about nature, in a convenient way. In the wild, these animals are secretive and it is not easy to see them. Our zoos participates in conservation,although there is a sad theme, and also a commercial air in it. they exchange animals sometimes. It is for animals that might be near extinct in the wild, and reintroduction might be possible in future. The zoos is like a prison, but in today’s world they may be extinct sooner, if zoos don’t hold some stocks.
    However, the dolphins are a different case, the mortality rate is high, it seems. There is no point keeping them in captivity then. This reminds me of a local bird, that is the oriental magpie robin. Most adult birds that is captured sure die one after a few days. Only young fledgings are successfully raised. so there is no point catching them.

  • Iron

    Dolphin lovers feel such shame and guilt at using 25 dolphins for profit and entertainment. The casino next door is destroying human lives and families everyday but they do not feel a thing. I think these people are perverted.

  • ponstan painkiller sanitized

    Dear Iron, I am not surprise if these dolphin activist are also against the opening of the casinos. At least all of my friends who are against the dolphin captivity are against having a casino here in the first place.

    But I should not blanket all animal activist by putting them on a high moral ground and say that all activist are so morally inclined that they would no want a casino. To do so would be deceiving myself and you.

    I’m sure there are strange ones. But most of them however do not want the casino in the first place. We like things in the order they were, not having the casino meant less lives destroyed.