“It’s hard to comprehend how our collective lives have changed in such a short period of time. And yet, here we are, hunkered down amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are separated from our families, have had our incomes disrupted, and are attempting to adjust to altered daily routines. All the while, doing what we can to protect our health and safety in a largely uncertain environment.
Some things, however, remain constant, including our need to care for, and protect our vulnerable. If you asked me a year ago if I would have envisioned providing 24/7 care for three previously abused dolphins at our newly-built world’s first permanent dolphin sanctuary, I would have responded with a “Hell, yeah!”
Because that’s what Dolphin Project does. It’s what we’ve always done. This year marks our 50th anniversary, but it’s really no different than 1970 when I founded our grass-roots organization. Back then, there was no such thing as the dolphin captivity issue. No internet, no social media, no cell phones. Communication was done with a pen and a stamp, or a telephone call from a rotary phone. Usually these calls would involve a dolphin in need, and I made it my life’s mission then and there to protect dolphins worldwide from exploitation and slaughter.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
50 YEARS OF HISTORY
The following is a sum of the highlights of Dolphin Project’s 50 years working on behalf of dolphins across the world
1963-1968: Ric O’Barry is the head trainer for the dolphins who play the character “Flipper” on the television series of the same name. While “Flipper” is a male dolphin, the role is actually played by five females: Susie, Kathy, Patty, Scotty and Squirt. Three years after the program ends, Kathy dies a horrible death in his arms. At that moment, Ric knows he needs to do something, starting with a trip to the Bahamas to free a dolphin named Charlie Brown.
Earth Day 1970: Things don’t go exactly as planned. No matter how hard Ric attempts to get Charlie Brown to leave his pen, the dolphin won’t go. Ric’s message is simple, yet revolutionary: he wants to strike down a law that permits the ownership of dolphins, for, as he explains, this goes against their very nature. Dolphins, he says, are part of the sea, and should remain there. His timing couldn’t be more perfect as the first-ever Earth Day celebrations are taking place across the world. Ric is ultimately arrested, held in jail for one week, and then released upon paying a $5 fine.
After the Bimini trial ends, Ric returns to his home in Coconut Grove, Florida, unsure what to do next. Fred Neil, the American folk singer-songwriter of 1960s and early 70s drops by with a friend. That friend is Stephen Stills, the American musician and multi-instrumentalist of Buffalo Springfield and of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) fame. Out on a boat observing wild dolphins, Stills offers to help fund Ric’s research with dolphins, and the readaption program for returning dolphins to the wild. With a new cause in hand, Ric needs t-shirts. When he goes to have them created, he has no ideas for a logo. The shop owner asks what sort of project the shirts are for and Ric tells him it is for a dolphin project. And Dolphin Project is officially born.*
*Source: Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project: The Beginning
“Since our humble beginnings, Dolphin Project successfully released a number of captive dolphins back into the wild. It’s an inconvenient truth that the dolphin abusement industry doesn’t want you to know. And why would they? What justification would they use to keep sentient and complex-brained mammals captive in chlorinated pools when they could be swimming wild and free, as nature intended them to be?” ~ Ric O’Barry
1973: Opo is released back into the wild (USA) using our proprietary Release Protocol.
1974: Liberty and Florida are rehabilitated and released back into the wild (Bahamas) using our proprietary Release Protocol.
1977: Japan Celebrates the Whale & Dolphin – the Seas Must Live. Dolphin Project produces the first-ever festival style concert in Tokyo, where American and Japanese musicians draw attention to whaling.
1980s: Ric O’Barry protests at aquariums and marine parks across the world, spreading the message to NOT buy a ticket to a dolphin show!
1987: Joe and Rosie are rehabilitated and released back into the wild (United States) using our proprietary Release Protocol.
1993: Flipper is rehabilitated and released back into the wild (Brazil) using our proprietary Release Protocol.
1996: Buck and Luther are rehabilitated and released back into the wild (United States).
2000: Eight dolphins are captured for a swim program in La Paz, Mexico. Dolphin Project travels to Mexico to help with a campaign to free them. Sadly, it does not work out. But, as a result of the controversy, Mexico bans the capture of dolphins for dolphinaria. (That law is implemented in 2002.)
2001: Ariel and Turbo are rehabilitated and released back into the wild (Guatemala) using our proprietary Release Protocol.
2002: Bluefield and Nica are rehabilitated and released back into the wild (Nicaragua) using our proprietary Release Protocol.
2003: Dolphin Project first goes to Taiji, Japan and documents the annual slaughters and captures taking place there. Dolphin Project is the only organization that has been consistently on the ground since then. Our team of Cove Monitors report on daily hunting activity, observe and document captive transfers, as well as monitor recent captures at the Taiji Whale Museum and other training sites. Read more about our campaign in Taiji, Japan.
2004: Six untrained dolphins are released back into the wild (Haiti).
2009: The Cove featuring Ric O’Barry is released. Five years in the making, The Cove movie exposes the brutal dolphin hunts to the world by following Ric’s efforts to document and stop the hunts. The film quickly becomes an audience and critical favorite, winning dozens of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (2010).
2011: Dolphin Project, in partnership with local organization JAAN, constructed the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of dolphins in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa. Named Camp Lumba Lumba (lumba being the Indonesian word for dolphin), the rehabilitation center addressed the need for effective enforcement mechanisms of a law banning wild dolphin captures in Indonesia.
2012: Ric protests in front of Marineland, Niagara Falls, Canada. Over the years, he has lent his support to various grass roots organizations across the world in their quest to end the dolphin shows.
2014: Jedol, Sampal and Chunsan are rehabilitated and released back into the wild (South Korea).
2015: Ric O’Barry goes to Washington, DC, representing over one million people who signed our petition in support of dolphins to President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Kenichiro Sasae, Ambassador of Japan to the United States. The signatures are also projected onto the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in a special ceremony.
Dolphin Project & RYOT create the world’s first wild dolphin immersive virtual reality experience. Narrated by Ian Somerhalder, directed by Lincoln O’Barry & Martha Rogers, camera operator Tim Calver, produced by RYOT.
2016: Ric and Helene O’Barry join thousands of demonstrators during Japan Dolphins Day, London, England. Each year on or around September 1, events are held across the world protesting Japan’s dolphin drive hunts.
2017: Munjawa is released back into the wild (Indonesia).
2018: Ric, Helene and Mai Li O’Barry protest outside the Duisburg Zoo during the Empty the Tanks event. Rachel Carbary, Founder of Empty the Tanks has now joined the Dolphin Project family and we are delighted to bring her, and Empty the Tanks onboard (2019).
2019: In support of Dolphin Free AZ, Dolphin Project procures a plane which flies a banner – “Dolphinaris: Why Are 4 Dolphins Dead?” – over various high-profile locations in the Scottsdale area. Three weeks later, Dolphinaris Arizona closes.
Dolphin Project releases the first-ever drone footage of the Taiji dolphin slaughters.
Indonesia’s traveling dolphin circus is shut down. After a decade of relentless campaigning against Indonesia’s traveling dolphin circus, the world’s cruelest dolphin show has been shut down.
“While all dolphins are candidates for retirement, not all dolphins are suitable for re-release. Each individual has to be carefully evaluated, both behaviorally and physically. It takes considerable resources, a solid infrastructure and a dedicated team of veterinary professionals to make this happen.” ~ Ric O’Barry
And in the fall of 2019, it did.
As most of you are aware, Dolphin Project, in partnership with the Central Jakarta Forestry Department and the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) in Bali, Indonesia established the world’s only permanent dolphin retirement sanctuary for captive dolphins. The sanctuary truly represents the culmination of our work – a home for previously performing dolphins who otherwise would have nowhere to go. It represents a safe haven where dolphins used for entertainment, swim-with encounters or other profiteering programs can retire in safety, peace and dignity.
At present, three dolphins, Rocky, Rambo and Johnny are quarantined at the sanctuary, dependent 24/7 on our team of caregivers and medical staff who are also quarantined alongside them. Our team and facility are also ready to respond to any other dolphin rescues/confiscations that may arise during this pandemic.
Education has always been a cornerstone of Dolphin Project’s work, and we’ve made a variety of resources available to teachers and other educators. Today’s kids are tomorrow’s activists, and knowledge equals empowerment! Many students who aspired to become dolphin trainers because of their love for dolphins, upon learning the truth about the horrors of captivity, changed their degree programs to ones that don’t involve dolphin abuse. Others have led peaceful demonstrations in their towns and cities to help abolish dolphin captivity. Other educational initiatives involve our work in the Solomon Islands, led by Lincoln O’Barry and Dr. Sarah Meltzoff as they assist communities in transitioning away from their conventional dolphin hunts.
“The last 50 years run together like a bad B movie. Protest lines. Muddy cells and dirty words. Courtrooms, lawyers and judges. All in an effort to educate the general public so they would stop buying tickets for dolphin shows.
I see 2020 as coming full circle to that day in 1970 when I attempted to free Charlie Brown. At that time, I didn’t have the resources to evaluate and rehabilitate him properly so that he either got the retirement he deserved, or was able to be released into his home range. Today we do have those resources, but they need to be maintained.
Our entire team at Dolphin Project remains fully committed to ensuring the success of the Bali Dolphin Sanctuary; that it functions as a true sanctuary for previously captive dolphins and it can serve as a prototype so that other dolphin sanctuaries can be built across the world.” ~ Richard O’Barry
So, while our 50th anniversary, also shared by Earth Day, is being celebrated together, yet separately, know that it’s because of your generous support we have made the great progress we have. As a gift to you, any purchase made via our online shop will be discounted by 15%. It’s a great way to get some authentic Dolphin Project gear and get ready for our Empty the Tanks Event: Selfies for Cetaceans (more information to come shortly). Remember, each time you donate to Dolphin Project, know that you are aiding the longest running anti-captivity dolphin welfare organization in the world.