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Special Report: Controversial Dolphinarium puts on first Phuket shows

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Controversial Dolphinarium puts on first Phuket shows | The Thaiger

PHUKET: A number of local schools and orphanages were invited to join the soft opening of Phuket’s highly-contested dolphinarium on the weekend of October 31.

Though the manager of the the Dolphins Bay Phuket facility declined to detail exactly how many invitations went out, the five dolphins, two seals and their trainers debuted to a packed 900-seat house.

“We actually had to add a 2pm show on both Saturday and Sunday because there were so many people coming to the attraction. We did not want to turn them away and ruin our reputation,” said Dolphins Bay Phuket General Manager Supreecha Suthamanondh.

The event was the first time for many people in Phuket to see a dolphin and seal performance, as most have not visited such facilities before, explained Waratthaya Suanpon, the managing director of Dolphins Bay Phuket.

Despite the widespread knowledge of the soft opening and a very active local movement by members of the ‘Phuket Says No to Dolphin Shows’ Facebook group, there were no protesters blocking the gates to the facility.

“It is not our objective to publicly protest, as there are potential risks involved,” the group explained to the Gazette on Facebook.

“Our objective is to raise awareness and educate the community about the cruelty of dolphin captivity and to lobby relevant government and private sectors.

“We are working tirelessly to do this. We have visited Taiji [Japan] and have seen first hand the truth behind the lucrative captivity trade. We have successfully implemented an online awareness campaign that is strengthening daily and captured the attention of the community. We are working toward more visits to schools.

“We will be continuing to do this, as we believe wholeheartedly that education and awareness are the key drivers to help people make better informed decisions about whether or not they want to visit such shows. We also believe that what we are doing strengthens our community in Phuket.”

Nonetheless, the response from those community members that attended the show was beaming.

“This was my first time seeing a dolphin. It was a good chance for me and I would like to thank my teacher and the dolphin show owner who let us see the show for free,” said an 11-year-old from SOS Children’s Villages Thailand.

Jeerawat Siribumrungsook, the director of SOS Children’s Villages Thailand, brought about 100 children to the dolphinarium last Sunday.

“We received the invitation to see the dolphin show for free. I think it’s good for students to have the chance to see real dolphins, as some of them have never been able to before. We received good feedback from the children – they enjoyed the show,” Mr Jeerawat said.

However, not everyone who was invited decided to take Dolphins Bay Phuket’s offer.

“The organization ‘Phuket Says No to Dolphin Shows’ came and told us about dolphins being kept in captivity. After they told us the story about how bad they [people] treat the dolphins, no one wanted to go there [the Phuket dolphinarium],” said Susanne Janson, the manager of Barnhem, a post-tsunami orphanage. “I think it’s very good that the organization is educating people about the truth of dolphinariums. We all love dolphins, so none of our children wanted to go.”

In February this year, a group of children from Phuket’s Gecko School presented a letter to the mayor of Taiji denouncing the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins in Japan, which is used to secure a select few dolphins for dolphinariums around the world.

The letter began:

“I would like you to take immediate action to end the hunting of dolphins in Japan, including the bloody and inhumane slaughter of dolphins that takes place in Taiji. Japan’s international reputation is severely damaged by the continuation of these barbaric hunts that are as disturbing to many Japanese as they are to the rest of the world…”

Early protests against Dolphins Bay Phuket focused on the ‘Taiji connection’.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society confirmed to the Gazette in 2014 that the original marine animals slated for shipment from Ukraine to the Phuket facility had a direct connection to the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins in Taiji.

Three of the dolphins, two Pacific Bottlenose and one Black Sea Bottlenose, were born in captivity in 2012 and are being directly exported from Ukraine, said Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Asia Director Gary Stokes at the time.

Additionally, five more Pacific Bottlenose dolphins are being re-exported from Ukraine; and all five were originally caught in the wild in Japan, he explained.

However, Mr Supreecha assured the Gazette that the dolphins that were eventually brought to Phuket had no direct connection to Taiji.

“People need to know that we aren’t torturing the animals. They were born in captivity and raised by humans,” Ms Waratthaya explained. “Please be assured that they are well taken care of by specialists.”

To ensure that the Dolphins Bay Phuket was being set up legally, the Department of Fisheries committee invited members of the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) to review the company. The team had two primary objectives: ensure that the facility met national standards and check the import licencing.

“We checked the venue several times and made clear what changes were necessary to best take care of the dolphins. Once they met all national standards, we were able to sign off on the facility. We also looked into the documentation of the dolphins themselves and were able to confirm that there were no conflicts with CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora],” said Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, head of the endangered species unit at the PMBC.

“Dolphins are social animals that need to learn from their parents and friends how to survive. As these dolphins were born and raised in an aquarium, they are well adjusted to this environment and would not be able to survive in the wild,” Dr Kongkiat said. “We can not just decide what is best for them based on our feelings.”

Dr Kongiat made it clear that he was aware of the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, but said that there was nothing his office could find that linked the dolphins at the facility to those captured in Japan.

The venue also succeeded in garnering local support in Chalong, with Chalong Moo 2 headman Thanakrit Kaewlipon explaining to the Gazette that he was proud to have the dolphinarium on the island.

“I am aware of the people protesting the dolphinarium. However, my understanding is that they are against hunting wild dolphins. They also say that keeping a dolphin in a small tank is torture,” Mr Thanakrit said.

“As a local leader, there is very little I can do one way or another, especially since the people in our village have no problem with the facility opening.

“I have talked with the manager and he confirmed that the facility is legal in all capacities and that the dolphins were not taken from the wild, but born in captivity.

“The dolpinarium will bring tourists to the village and supply jobs for locals. It’s not that we don’t understand those who are against the facility, but we don’t have a problem with it. In fact, we are proud to have it here and to welcome tourists to our area.”

However, renowned dolphin trainer-turned-animal rights activist Ric O’Barry, well-known for his role in the Academy-award winning documentary The Cove, lashed out against the facility following its soft opening.

“It is my hope that the new dolphin abusement [sic] park in Phuket also has a soft closing. We [Dolphin Project] will continue to support the local environmentalists and support their effort to educate the tourists and encourage them to not buy a ticket to the dolphinarium,” he told the Gazette. “I feel confident that the abusive animal act will eventually close and be replaced with some sort of cruelty free entertainment. It’s just a matter of time.”

Meanwhile, Phuket expat and Dolphin Project Monitor Vicki Kiely vowed to continue her efforts to sway public opinion about the moral issues surrounding dolphins and other marine mammals in captivity.

“I’m very sad about this dolphinarium opening, especially seeing the lengths we have gone to to stop it, and also to educate people about it and the wrongs of captivity in general,” Ms Kiely said.

“We will continue to speak out against this abusement [sic] park. We are exposing to the world how wrong it is, and how wrong captivity is. The animals suffer immense stress and are robbed of all their natural environment. In turn, they are deprived of being able to function using their instincts.”

Mr Supreecha acknowledged that it was unlikely for there to be an understanding between his operation and the stance taken up by those who support ‘Phuket Says No to Dolphin Shows’.

“I know that those against the dolphinarium will continue to protest our attraction. However, as I have made abundantly clear from the start, we are following legal procedures and ensuring that the animals are being well taken care of by specialists,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we are giving adults and children the opportunity to see real dolphins at their convenience, as finding them in the wild is not that easy.”

— Chutharat Plerin

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.

The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.

One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.

This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.

This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.

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Bangkok

The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations

The Thaiger

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The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Hello Phuket – destined for huge tourist growth in the next six years – fodors.com

In 2018, international tourist arrival traffic grew by 6% to reach a total of 1.4 billion world tourists, according to research by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. And there’s a lot more to come with international travel predicted to increase by a massive 35% over the next six years to 2025.

But where is all that extra traffic going to go? Which destinations are quiet now that might be swarming with tourists in the years to come? Two destinations in Thailand are set for a prosperous future, according to the data. Whilst almost all the growth is excepted to be to Asian destinations, an under-visited resource for world tourism so far.

Euromonitor data has been used to simulate tourist growth models and reveal the fastest growing projected visitor arrivals in major cities and destinations around the world for 2025, compared to arrival figures in 2018.

In Thailand, Phuket’s tourist traffic is poised to increase up to 85% in the next six years, from nearly 12 million arrivals in 2018 to over 22 million in 2025. Bangkok is predicted to see the 8th most prolific rise in tourist traffic, with arrivals in Bangkok set to swell an additional 68% during the same period. Doha, the capital of Qatar, is set to explode with 104% increase in traffic over the next six years.

The data also predicts that both Bangkok and Phuket will rebound big time in 2020, Phuket in particular with a growth of around 20% for the next year, accord to the data from TravelSupermarket.com.

By 2025 the data predicts that Bangkok will be the world’s #1 tourist destination, a position it’s held before in recent years. The Thai capital will be followed by Singapore, Dubai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, making South East Asia the world’s emerging tourism hotspot.

Some of the world’s favourites – New York, Paris, London – will continue to grow their tourist numbers but not at the rate of most Asian destinations.

You can read the full list HERE.

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

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Phuket

Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works

The Thaiger

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Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works | The Thaiger

The Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority says Rawai’s mains water supply will be shut off tomorrow (Tuesday, October 15) as new water pipes are fitted in front of The Title Beach Front condo resort complex on the town’s beachfront.

The mains water supply will be shut off from 9am until 4:30pm along the beachfront strip.

The PWA says the areas affected will be along Wiset Road along the Rawai beachfront road, as well as Soi Yanui and Soi Ruafaed.

Residents and businesses are being urged to collect water for use during the day today, before tomorrow morning’s shut-off.

As usual, the PWA say…“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Contact the Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority on 076 319173 or 082 7901634 for more details.

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