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article imageOp-Ed: Fiftieth anniversary of 'Flipper' overlooks the truth

By Elizabeth Batt     Jan 10, 2014 in Environment
Miami - As Miami Seaquarium in Florida gears up for a year long celebration of the television show 'Flipper', the story of the real Flipper was nothing to celebrate.
It was 1964 when Flipper first broadcast on the NBC network. It was an instant hit with children around the globe. Produced in cooperation with Miami Seaquarium, the show ran for almost four years. Millions of people came to love and admire the smart bottlenose dolphin who could solve everyone's problems.
"They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning..."
"Miami Seaquarium is very proud of its association with 'Flipper,'" said Andrew Hertz, president and general manager at Miami Seaquarium. To prove it, the marine park is hosting a year-long celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the dolphin show.
The Seaquarium's: "A Year Full of Wonder," will consist of a new Flipper Splash Area for kids, and a new Flipper Dolphin Show," the aquarium said in its press release. It "will let everyone know what Flipper has been up to in recent years," they explained.
Except the real Flipper, died a long time ago, not very long after the show ended.
"No-one you see, is smarter than he..."
The Dolphin Project's Ric O'Barry began his career as the trainer of the five dolphins chosen to star in the 1960s series. After the show had completed its final run, O'Barry was called to the Miami Seaquarium. One of the Flipper dolphins — Kathy, was sick; she died in her trainer's arms.
O'Barry believes that his favorite dolphin — suffering from a broken heart, chose to end her own life. In the PBS interview: Whale of a Business, O'Barry described Kathy's final moments:
She swam over and looked me right in the eye, took a breath, and just held it. Just held it. Well so I grabbed her like this and she sank to the bottom of the tank. I let her go and she sank. I jumped in and pulled her to the surface. She committed suicide.
It was this metamorphic incident that converted O'Barry from dolphin trainer to dolphin protector.
In his book, Behind the Dolphin Smile, the advocate wrote: "I wanted people to realize that it was wrong to own dolphins [and] to make them do silly tricks ... I was on a pilgrimage to try to undo at least in part, some of the mess I had made of things."
He's been on that path ever since.
"And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder..."
Tommy Norden  who played Bud in the Flipper television series  says Hi to an old friend  Flipper. Bu...
Tommy Norden, who played Bud in the Flipper television series, says Hi to an old friend, Flipper. But Flipper is dead.
PRNewsFoto/Miami Seaquarium
Still honing in on the success of the television show, the Seaquarium said of its planned celebration, "Flipper's surroundings may have changed," but "his core commitment to helping out when there is a need has not."
The park plans to open a new water play area and implement the program: "Flip it Forward, South Florida." A program designed to encourage, "everyone to 'Flip It Forward' through random acts of kindness."
But let's flip it back instead, for history bears its own revelation.
Miami Seaquarium was originally founded in 1955, and it's had many animals pass through its doors. The Phinventory at reveals some alarming numbers. In 58 years of operation, 81 bottlenose dolphins have died in the aquarium's tanks.
And these are not the only casualties.
In addition to the bottlenose, the death-roll also lists one common dolphin, one false killer whale, seven pilot whales, one pygmy killer whale, two Risso's dolphins, two sperm whales; 11 dwarf and pygmy sperm whales, one spotted dolphin, one striped dolphin, seven Pacific white-sided dolphins, two dolphins of an unknown species, and a beaked whale.
Given that the lifespan of a bottlenose dolphin is 40-50 years, 81 deaths in 58 years is a staggering statistic not to be ignored.
"Flying there-under, under the sea."
"Flipper is dead." Ric O'Barry told Digital Journal, "it is time for the Miami Seaquarium to start telling the public the truth."
The Cove star said he recently received a phone call from Luke Halpin, the original star of Flipper. "I had not talked to Luke in about 30 years," O'Barry said, but "he called to say, "they don't belong in captivity."
It was a welcome sentiment. One that the dolphin advocate hopes more people will take note of. O'Barry explained:
It may have taken Blackfish and The Cove [documentaries] for Luke to "get it", but he's got it now. I only hope Tommy Norden gets it too.
Today, O'Barry and his team traverse the world to save dolphins. From the tiny Japanese cove in Taiji, to Spain, the Solomon Islands and Indonesia. Even in South Korea, no dolphin is overlooked.
"When people learn the truth," O'Barry said, "they will stop supporting dolphin shows."
And when you know the truth, you'll see that Flipper's legacy is already established, and firmly in the right hands.
Flipper theme song: Henry Vars with lyrics by William D. Dunham.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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