It seems that one particular museum in the small town of Taiji, on the East Coast of Japan, has something very big to hide. Earlier this year, two Australian tourists attempted to buy tickets to the Taiji Whale Museum and were flatly refused entry by the office attendants. The reason, which is currently the subject of a controversial lawsuit, is more convoluted than it may seem at first glance -- it involves the International Court of Justice, school lunches and the TV series "Flipper."
In order to unravel this web of seemingly unrelated topics, it is necessary to go back to 1960, when a young Ric O'Barry first began capturing and training dolphins. O'Barry is now known as one of the foremost specialists on marine mammals, but back then, he captured dolphins for a living and trained them to be stars of the popular television show "Flipper." What O'Barry didn't realize was that his love of dolphins was unfortunately, catching.
Flipper did tricks, helped solve crime and even had a "voice" -- apparently the result of a doctored kookaburra's laugh. The show's popularity caused a huge amount of people to want to see dolphins and thus spurred the multi-billion dollarcaptive whale and dolphin trade. Years and many seasons of "Flipper" later, one particular dolphin, Kathy, committed suicide in O'Barry's arms. As dramatic as this claim may sound, dolphin experts have backed up his assertion, arguing that under great times of stress dolphins can ‘choose' not to come up for air. For O'Barry, Kathy's death was a turning point. He realized that capturing and keeping dolphins in captivity was not good for their wellbeing and has since dedicated his life to bringing an end to the industry and protecting dolphins all over the world.