New dolphin show triggers backlash
By Yi Whan-woo
A shower of criticism from environmental groups sprayed the return of the dolphin show on Sunday at the Seoul Zoo. The city government had originally decided to cease the show on March 19.
The animal rights activists claimed the show titled “Ecological Tales on Dolphins” is a form of animal cruelty.
The 20-minute live show runs three times a day and introduces five dolphins, including Jedol. Last month Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon officially terminated the dolphin show and moved to release Jedol into the ocean. Animal rights advocates believe that the dolphin was captured illegally.
In contrast from the shows before March 19, the performance this time consisted of low-intensity activities by the dolphins, according to a Seoul Zoo official.
Rather than riding on the back of a dolphin, a trainer stands aside and explains the nature of the sea mammals while the visitors observe the animals that are instructed to swim or jump in a pool.
“It seemed as if the dolphins were bored since they stopped performing from March 19, and we wanted to help them recover their natural instincts,” a trainer said.
“The show especially is to give Seoul citizens a chance to see Jedol as much as possible as he will be released into the waters around Jeju Island sometime soon.”
The advocates rejected such statements and countered that the show is virtually no different from the one previously held for the past 28 years in a confined pool.
“We would say this Ecological Tale thing is another form of animal cruelty, said an official from the Korea Federation for Environment Movements, a watchdog for nature and ecology.
“A trainer induces a dolphin to jump by offering food rewards. This is exactly the same as before and is strictly for entertaining an audience.”
The Korean Society for Animal Freedom, a group of animal lovers who have actively protested the illegal poaching of sea mammals, echoed the view.
“All we can say is this is still the exploitation of dolphins under the excuse that they are less extreme activities,” the group said in a statement.
Fearing extinction of the sea mammals, animal rights activists have opposed the commercial use of dolphins by zoos across the country, such as Jungmun Marine Park Pacificland.
The maritime entertainment business company on Jeju Island is under pressure to release all of its five dolphins to the open sea. The Jeju District Court ruled on April 6 that the company’s dolphins were captured illegally for financial gains.
The company still runs the dolphin show despite the court’s decision, and the animal rights advocates are trying to seek the release of the five dolphins as quickly as possible along with Jedol.
“There are 26 dolphins across the five zoos that are confined for entertainment purposes or under the excuse of ‘ecological experience,’” an activist said.
“As the six among those 26 are set to be free, we’ll push forward to bring freedom to the rest.”
The animal lovers say the public can still have a chance to observe ecological nature of dolphins once the business owners adopt open sea tourism.
“More than 70 countries run tour programs in which tourists can enjoy dolphins in their natural habitat.”