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10/7/12

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Dolphin  crusader  Ric  O’Barry  lends  expertise  to Marineland  critics
Published  on  Friday  October  05,  2012 Linda  Diebel  and  Liam  Casey   Staff  reporters  

It’s  Friday  and  Ric  O’Barry  is  on  Japanese  time.  He’s exhausted  but  he’s  giving  the  same  talk  about  saving dolphins  he’s  delivered  almost  every  day  for  the  past 40  years. The  famed  environmentalist  talks  fast,  moves  fast, thinks  fast  and  knows  more  about  the  treatment  of  the world’s  dolphins  —  their  capture,  slaughter,  life  in  the wild  and  “survival  in  captivity”  —  than  almost  anyone on  earth. He’s  pushing  73  but,  wearing  a  dapper  polka-­dotted scarf,  navy  blazer,  jeans  and  Converse  runners,  looks and  acts  like  a  younger  man.  He’s  so  busy  he  barely gets  time  to  visit  his  wife  and  7-­year-­old  daughter  in Denmark. The  founder  of  The  Dolphin  Project  and  star  of  the Academy  Award-­winning  documentary  The  Cove about  dolphin  killing  in  Japan  has  devoted  most  of  his adult  life  to  saving  marine  mammals.  After  10  years  as trainer  on  the  1960s  TV  show,  Flipper,  he  rejected  the captive  sea  mammal  industry  forever. The  results  have  taken  a  toll  on  him. “I  like  to  use  the  word,  ‘anguish,’  ”  says  O’Barry,  describing  his  usual  state  of  mind.  He’s  sitting  on  a  bench  at  Queen’s  Park,  between  a  telephone interview  with  Community  Safety  Minister  Madeleine  Meilleur  and  a  press  conference  about  Marineland,  the  Niagara  Falls  tourist  attraction. “It’s  because  you  can’t  do  anything  about  (your)  thoughts,  and  it’s  like  pulling  your  hair  out  .  .  . “I’m  probably  crazy  at  this  point.” Marineland  is  why  he’s  here.  He  says  a  Star  series  on  the  Niagara  Falls  tourist  attraction  brought  him  back  to  a  place  he  first  protested  in  1991.  He says  he  wasn’t  surprised  by  the  accounts  to  the  Star  of  former  trainers  who  blamed  poor  water  and  short-­staffing  on  animal  sickness  and  death. Marineland  this  week  agreed  to  an  external  evaluation  of  its  water  management  system  and  thorough  update  of  its  water  management  protocols  in  the wake  of  an  investigation  by  the  Canadian  Association  of  Zoos  and  Aquariums. In  a  statement  on  Marineland’s  website,  marketing  manager  Ann  Marie  Rondinelli  said  this  week  “our  primary  concern  continues  to  be  providing  a  safe and  healthy  environment  for  our  animals  and  a  welcoming  one  for  our  guests.” The  Ontario  Society  for  the  Prevention  of  Cruelty  to  Animals  is  also  investigating  the  facility.  O’Barry  calls  on  the  public  to  stop  buying  tickets  and  the government  to  stop  encouraging  school  trips  so  children  can  see  what  he  calls  “the  spectacle  of  domination.” Recently,  a  Belgian  film  crew  visited  marine  parks  throughout  Florida  and  later  asked  O’Barry  what  he  thought  was  wrong  with  them All  it  took,  he  explains,  was  a  trip  for  the  team  to  Key  West,  Fla.,  to  experience  the  exuberance  of  dolphins  in  the  wild  to  understand  the  lessons  of captivity.  There,  they  saw  dolphins  that  roam  60  kilometres  a  day  and  surf  for  fish  on  the  waves  with  members  of  their  pod. All  that  he  has  witnessed  brings  him  “heart-­wrenching”  moments  when  he  is  alone.  He’s  spent  the  last  few  months  lobbying  whalers  in  Denmark’s Faroe  Islands,  pushing  to  stop  the  savage  slaughter  and  capture  of  dolphins  in  Taiji,  Japan,  and,  over  the  Thanksgiving  weekend,  hitting  Toronto  and Niagara  Falls  to  publicize  conditions  at  Marineland. Sunday,  he  leads  a  protest  at  Marineland  on  the  last  weekend  of  the  tourist  season.
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Dolphin  Project  founder  Ric  O'Barry  visits  Queen's  Park  in  Toronto  on  Friday  to  lobby  for  the  closing  of  Marineland's aquatic  exhibits. DAVID  COOPER/TORONTO  STAR

10/7/12

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It’s  the  time  in  hotels  that  are  tough.  He  wants  to  be  alone,  away  from  the  constant  interviews  and  reminders  —  every  car  ride  seems  to  turn  into  a gruelling  interview  —  but  that’s  when  uninvited  pictures  flash  through  his  mind. He  imagines  the  dark  forms  of  nine  captive  dolphins  held  through  two  hurricanes,  in  shallow  sea  pens  off  La  Paz,  Mexico,  in  2001. Too  often  he  sees  the  bright  red  waters  of  Taiji’s  cove,  where  bloodied  dolphins  smash  themselves  against  the  rocks  to  escape  the  nets  and harpoons  of  their  would-­be  captors.  Still,  every  year  the  boats  go  out  to  drive  more  dophins  to  death  or  capture  in  the  cove. In  an  interview  Friday,  he  praised  Meilleur,  saying  he  expects  her  to  be  a  “champion”  for  tough  provincial  legislation  to  protect  captive  marine mammals.  Meilleur,  he  said,  told  him  she  read  the  Star  series,  “went  into  (her)  office,  closed  the  door  and  cried.” “Canadian  legislation  is  far  behind  Third  World  countries,”  said  O’Barry.  “Way  behind.” Before  leaving  for  Niagara  Falls,  he  told  a  press  conference:  “For  a  country  as  advanced  as  Canada  not  to  have  offered  any  protection  whatsoever  (to marine  mammals)  is  shocking.”

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