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article imageInternational team to tackle world zoo & aquarium organization

By Elizabeth Batt     Mar 24, 2014 in Environment
Gland - An international team of dolphin advocates opposed to the Taiji dolphin drives will gather at the headquarters of the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA) this week, to discuss the exclusion of one of its members.
The team, headed by The Cove star Ric O'Barry, will host a demonstration outside of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) building in Gland, Switzerland, which also houses the headquarters for the WAZA organization.
The rally will ask WAZA to oust one of its members, the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums or JAZA, if the organization will not comply with WAZA's established Code of Ethics.
JAZA, whose member aquariums regularly purchase dolphins captured in the brutal Japanese dolphin drives, have long maintained that the drive hunts are "tradition." And WAZA, activists say, accepts the theory to justify JAZA's membership.
In a 2004 statement, WAZA urged its members not to, "accept animals obtained by the use of methods which are inherently cruel. An example of such a practice," they said, "is the catching of dolphins by the use of a method known as drive fishing."
But despite the strong wording, WAZA continues to list JAZA as a member of its organization even though several of its own members, still purchase wild-caught dolphins captured in the drive fisheries.
The demo, organized by Swiss activist Daniel Oliver Jost along with Maria Claudia Heidemann, hopes to finally force WAZA to stand behind its words. Supported by social media groups: 'Save the Blood Dolphins', 'Champions for Cetaceans' and 'I Love Dolphins', the rally will coincide with a planned meeting between the Dolphin Project's, Ric O'Barry, and Dr. Gerald Dick, the Executive Director of WAZA.
Accompanying O'Barry to the meeting is Sakae Hemmi from the Japanese conservation group, ELSA Nature Conservancy.
ELSA, along with two other Japanese-based animal organizations, has repeatedly asked WAZA not to condone the dolphin drives and to take strong action against JAZA.
Last January, ELSA requested that JAZA-affiliated facilities stop obtaining dolphins through the drive hunts in Japan or be ousted from WAZA immediately.
ELSA disputed JAZA's notion of 'tradition' by citing town records showing that "the drive hunt in Taiji was and is not, Japanese culture." ELSA maintained that, "it was not until 1969, that dolphin drives had been conducted on a large scale."
O'Barry, who values the importance of Japanese intervention in solving the dolphin drives, agrees with ELSA. He spoke with Digital Journal about the forthcoming demo, and what he hopes the meeting will achieve.
EB: WAZA claims it won't interfere with something that is considered Japanese culture. Yet Japanese conservation organizations have told WAZA that the drive hunts are new in comparison to the country's whaling history. Why won't WAZA listen to them?
R. O'Barry: It's not cultural or traditional. Gerald Dick needs to hear that from a Japanese NGO. Sakae Hemmi of ELSA Nature Conservancy will do that on March 28th. The culture card is all WAZA has left to play. It's the lame excuse for WAZA's non-action against JAZA. We hope to remove that card from the deck. WAZA will be out of excuses.
The demo is a way to bring WAZA out into the public eye. They have received thousands of email requests to expel JAZA. The requests are ignored. March 28th is a media event. They will not be able to ignore the Swiss media like they ignore their mail.
EB: How significant a voice for the dolphins could WAZA be, if it chose to hold JAZA to task?
R. O'Barry: WAZA has the power to expel JAZA from the club. That would be very embarrassing to the Taiji Whale Museum. They are the main dolphin broker in Taiji. They are also a member of JAZA, which is a member in good standing with WAZA.
Isolating the Taiji Whale Museum from their own industry and their peers, would serve to get them out from under the protection of the WAZA umbrella, and place them into the category of renegades. That would be a good start. It would be harder for the museum to continue to traffic in dolphins, if they are renegades.
EB: WAZA brokered an agreement with JAZA that during the month of September, bottlenose dolphins captured in the Cove won't be slaughtered but may be captured for aquaria. This protection doesn't extend to other species of dolphin and after Sept., even bottlenose may be killed. Do you think that WAZA's agreement with JAZA, just endorses the dolphin drives?
R. O'Barry: Yes. WAZA is part of the problem in Taiji. They protect the trainers and dolphin dealers by being complacent and making excuses for the Taiji Whale Museum. This facility is ground zero for the largest dolphin marketplace on earth. WAZA and JAZA are joined at the hip. Some people support the violent dolphin captures by direct participation, others support this abuse with their silence. JAZA does both. They continually violate the Code of Ethics with impunity from WAZA.
EB: So if WAZA made a stand and asked JAZA to oust those aquaria sourcing from the drives, do you think JAZA would agree to the request, or withdraw from WAZA?
R. O'Barry: It is not possible to know what JAZA will do. These are not rational people. Their only motivation is money.
Jost said around 50-100 people were expected to attend the demo. Barbara Napoles, founder of Save the Blood Dolphins, told DJ that the main objective of the day was, "for Ric and Sakae to have a discussion with Dr. Dick."
O'Barry will also be hand-delivering a 14,000+ signature-strong petition to WAZA, on the day of the meeting.
The meeting and the demo will be held at the IUCN building: Rue Mauverney 28, 1196 Gland, between 1 PM and 3 PM. Further details are available via the event's Facebook page.
Napoles is hoping that the event, combined with a planned Thunderclap and attendance pledge, will get WAZA's attention.
" WAZA needs to wake up," Napoles said, "they need to expel JAZA."
More about ric o'barry, Switzerland, Iucn, taiji dolphin drives, World Association of Zoos and Aquarium
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