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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Dolphins . . . Smarter Than Toddlers . . .

. . . And clearly smarter than some parents.

Now, take Seaworld out of the equation for a minute. Whatever your opinion of captive animals and Seaworld in particular, like it or not they exist, and they have animals.

They also have many MANY warning signs. Don't go too near the animals. Don't wear dangly/sharp jewellery, try and pet the animals, or hold up/wave around the feed containers at the edge/over the edge of the animal pens. They have keepers/handlers/staff reminding people of these rules.

So if I were the parent of Jillian Thomas, the little girl who was bitten by a dolphin at Seaworld Orlando, the first thing I would do, before going to the media complaining that my kid got bitten by a dolphin at Seaworld, would be to take a look at the video of the incident that I am using to prove that my kid got bitten. Because the video (below) clearly shows that the parent in question is busy with the video camera, and their daughter waves the white feeding tray in front of the dolphin. Remember those rules again? DON'T HOLD UP/WAVE AROUND THE FEED CONTAINERS. There is a wall. You can see it in the video. The wall slopes away from the pool. So, from a dophin's-eye view, you can't see the tray if it is where it should be, on the wall.
 "I am such an overprotective parent that if I knew my child might get bitten, I would not have even let my daughter do this."
 - Amy Thomas, Jillian's Mother.
Seriously? Are you genuinely serious with that statement?! You give your kid a tray of a non-domesticated animal's favourite food, stand them in front of aforementioned non-domesticated animal, walk away from your child to get a good view with your video camera, and it never crossed your mind that something might go wrong and the child might get bitten?!
"It was strange how they downplayed the whole thing. At the time, we thought we were at fault but these are children. We just want other parents to know the dangers."
 - Jamie Thomas, Jillian's Father. 
First off, go back to "the time". You were right. You ARE at fault. The keepers are responsible for the safety and well-being of the dolphins. Your wild animals are your own responsibility. Let's consider The Dangers of Seaworld.

Parents, The Dangers of Seaworld are:

 1) Not obeying the rules.
 2) Not realising that, however well behaved your kids are at home, when they are confronted with an amazingly exciting experience, they might well forget the rules they have read/been told, and need reminding.
 3) You are a parent first, and a cameraman/woman second. Adjust your behaviour accordingly.
 4) You cannot trust ANY animal (nope, not even Fluffy or Fido) 100% not to bite your child. Sad but true.

Apparently the family won't be taking legal action, but they would like Seaworld to either raise the age limit for dolphin feeding or remind parents that dolphins do bite.

I'm sorry, why should other kids suffer because you didn't keep a close enough eye on your own?! When we were there, tiny kids were being held up to see over the wall to feed the dolphins. They were fine. No-one got bitten. Parents were supervising. As for reminding people that dolphins can bite . . . Do you also want a sign saying the water in the tank is wet? That you should continue breathing in and out whilst feeding the dolphins? Because if we state all the obvious points that can be connected to dolphin feeding, the sign will be bigger than the freaking park.

Maybe we should add an IQ test that you have to pass before you are allowed near the dolphins, and if the dolphins have a higher score than you, you're not allowed a tray of fish?!

I've done the Behind the Scenes Dolphin Experience at Seaworld. There were a few VERY small children in our group, with parents, and they were impeccably behaved, despite being very excited. They participated safely in every aspect of the experience, even the bits when the dolphins hop (do dolphins hop?! Anyway) up onto the wall of the enclosure for petting and photographs. No-one got bitten.

I'm not perfect, I've been to parks, escaped my parents, and broken the rules before. I remember visiting an animal park with my family and getting bitten by a wallaby. There were safety signs, but the wallaby looked cute and fuzzy so I took my chance and petted it, and it nipped my hand. But because that was many years ago, when people were responsible for their own actions instead of blaming anyone and everyone else, my parents didn't go to the press and demand the park change the rules. They made sure I was OK, then they told me off for being stupid enough to pet a wallaby, then they apologised to the keepers because I broke the rules, and then we went about our day.

Jillian . . . I hope your bites heal quickly (think of the kick-ass story you have to go with your scars! Coolest. Story. In. Your. Class. EVER.) and that dolphins are still your favourite animals, because they are AWESOME. Next time, get your parents to cough up for the Behind The Scenes experience instead. All the fish is in a bucket held by a keeper, so it's super-safe, you are actually allowed to pet the dolphins, and the keepers teach you dolphin sign language too.

Mr Thomas' video is below . . .

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