Representatives from several civic-minded groups converged just outside the entrance to the show last Sunday, Dec. 9 2007 at 12:30pm, and made the public aware that not everything was fine and dandy at the show. Members of Kalikasan, Agham, and the Earth Island Institute-Philippines joined PAWS in distributing leaflets, staging a mock dolphin show, and a death-in where they laid on the ground with fake blood splattered on their white t-shirts. All this to illustrate the grim reality of animal shows where starvation is part of training and lifelong captivity is the norm.
The Inquirer, a local newspaper, wasted no time in posting their online report on the demonstration in which the managers were reported to have a permit from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). This bid for legitimacy seems odd and even misleading. CITES is based in Nairobi and it is a department of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). It is not an international animal welfare organization as the dolphin show might want you to think. CITES is actually a trade organization with member countries including Indonesia and the Philippines. Their job is to regulate the trade of endangered species between countries, making sure that such a trade does not result in the extinction of any species of flora or fauna. They monitor, among others, the import and export of animal skin and fur which is a clear indication that they are not in the business of animal welfare. CITES' mission and operations are honorable since they guard against extinction of rare flora and fauna, but it is wrong to use this well-intentioned organization as a stamp of approval for the operations of the dolphin show at Metrowalk. None of the performing animals at the show are on the endangered species list. If there is actually a permit from CITES, then it is meaningless against the backdrop of animal welfare. CITES does not monitor the medical condition, feeding, housing and overall health of performing animals. They don't even have the time to answer queries via email or telephone due to a very small staff. This is what I learned when I tried to reach them.
In the meantime, please refrain from attending these shows where performing animals are severely starved to the point where they will do unnatural acts just to get fed. Their natural environment is an entire ocean and not a tiny, chlorinated pool. Chlorine blinds dolphins in a matter of several years. How would you feel if you were a captive for life and you had to exist at starvation point and had blindness to look forward to at the end of your useful life?
God gave you a conscience. Use it as God expected you to.
Photos by Emil Rebano.