Monday, October 4, 2010

Good News and Not So Good News in Egypt

By Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

The local Hurghada Environment Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) and I have scored a great victory here in Egypt, but the fate of four captive dolphins is still up in the air.

The good news is that the Governor of The Red Sea district of Egypt has issued a ban on all future import of dolphins, cutting off the expected import of five more Taiji dolphins to a local business building a new dolphinarium here.

Four dolphins from Taiji in small backyard swimming pool in Hurghada, Egypt.
Photography by Kate Tomlinson.

He also issued an ultimatum to the owner of four dolphins that had been imported from Taiji back in August: the dolphins must be moved to a new location that complies with national and international standards for care. We had hoped, of course, to somehow help these dolphins that are in poor health back into the wild, but so far that does not seem to be possible. The owner is now busily building a new dolphin pool in the middle of the desert to accommodate these dolphins. He has 48 hours to comply with the governor’s directive.

Ric and Lincoln O’Barry in Hurghada, Egypt.
Photography by Kate Tomlinson.

My son Lincoln and I, and our Animal Planet cameras, have been checking out the construction site. We also tried to check up on the health of the dolphins, but were stymied by the owner and his cronies. HEPCA, Lincoln, photographer Kate Tomlinson, and I were subject to threats by hired thugs – they even tried to steal our camera and set a pit bull on us!

A thug reaches for our camera in front of the home of the owner of four dolphins from Taiji.
Photography by Kate Tomlinson.

A pit bull is set on Ric in front of the home of the owner of the four dolphins from Taiji.
Photography by Lincoln O’Barry.

Ric O’Barry inspects the new dolphin pool construction in Hurghada, Egypt.
Photography by Kate Tomlinson.

HEPCA received similar treatment when they tried to visit the dolphins to have them inspected and diagnosed by Dr. Pierre Gallego. When let in alone without HEPCA support, Dr. Gallego was unable to see the dolphins in the turbid swimming pool water (essentially these dolphins are swimming in their own excrement), nor could the dolphins be caught for blood samples. HEPCA’s representatives in their cars were surrounded by the thugs and threatened with violence.

Ric O’Barry diving in the Red Sea, Egypt, checking out a potential site for dolphins with clean sea water – unfortunately, the dolphinarium company rejected it.
Photography by Kate Tomlinson.

Things are changing rapidly here, so who knows what will happen next? One thing for sure, I will file a formal complaint with the local police. We cannot allow the dolphinarium thugs to get away with these violent attacks!

HEPCA continues the fight against a long-term dolphinarium, enlisting the support of the local community, hotels, dive shops, and other tourism businesses along the Red Sea, a premier dive area. Their grassroots activism is a good model for other places around the world fighting back against keeping dolphins in captivity. I salute them and thank them for their efforts.

Tell your friends, family and neighbors to join the effort! As HEPCA has shown, the local governments can be made to listen to the public, and that is what our Save Japan Dolphins Campaign is all about – bringing grassroots pressure and education to bear against the government agencies that allow these travesties to happen.

The dolphins depend on us to protect them! I hope you will join me in supporting our Campaign efforts.

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