Year 5 students at British International School, Phuket (BISP) recently had a visit from marine activist, Natasha Eldred.

The aim of her visit was to relate her experiences of her visit to ‘The Cove’ in Taiji, Japan earlier this year, as a ‘Cove Monitor’ with Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. She also aimed to talk about the proposed Phuket Dolphinarium and the possibility of another “attraction” opening up in Kamala, and the negative impact that this would have on Phuket’s reputation as a leading tourist destination.

Year 5 have been studying the impact of humans on the environment and have covered crucial issues such as rainforest destruction for the growth of palm oil and the plight of endangered species like the Bluefin Tuna, Tree Pangolins and South China Tigers, just to name a few. There are actually thousands of animals that are on the endangered list.

More recently the students have been learning about animals in captivity, which are used for the purposes of entertainment. It seems that their island home is a good place for case studies to which the Phuket Dolphinarium is a recent addition.

“Where is the education in this?” Natasha remarks as the children view a video of these intelligent creatures mimicking humans and being rewarded with dead fish. Natasha receives an intelligent response from one student: “There is no education. We don’t learn anything about the dolphins because they’re not behaving like they would in the wild.”

There is no apparent harm in a ‘fun’ day at a dolphinarium. However, the children soon learned how, in Taiji, hundreds of dolphins are driven to a cove where some are selected by trainers from around the world, including Thailand.

These dolphins are separated from their families forever. A darker fate awaits those rejected. They are slaughtered inhumanely leaving a bay of blood-red water, cleansed each day only by the outgoing tide.

The children thought of alternatives that would make Phuket a more attractive place: “It would be better to have a place that rescues dolphins and cares for them.”

This student has anticipated Natasha’s own idea as she tells us, “I’d love to see a Marine Sanctuary in Phuket one day. I know it’s a bit of a pipe dream but if we keep fighting and being passionate about what we want, we might just get it.”

Report by Paul Redfern

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