Lies, deceit, corruption – to say nothing of cruelty. All facets of the lucrative captive cetacean industry. And I should know, because I was once a big part of it.
So, who am I?
I have several pseudonyms, my most popular being Capello, the most colourful being The Psychic Trainer. But there is another handle – one I’d rather remained unwritten, as my whistle-blowing return was never intended as self-promotion. Either way, I am the trainer featured in The Perfect Pair Dolphin Trilogy exposé, three books written under the Fiction banner to avoid legal problems. A story now described by one discerning reviewer as “… fact stranger and more brutal than fiction!” Yet, incredibly, all events chronicled are true, facts proofed by original dolphin logbooks, long since thought destroyed. (A common Company practice on the death of a show dolphin.)
As you can imagine, my emergence with these logs has severely rattled the conglomerate involved in the story, which has resulted in a national UK media blackout.
My involvement with the aqua-circus began at the tender age of 17, when I landed what I believed to be my dream job – a naivety that saw me whisked away from family and friends, and desposited in the harsh confines of the dolphin training pens; a facility breaking raw dolphins for the commercial dolphinariums.
Always held in high esteem, trainers graduating from this establishment were known for being hard-nosed. Not surprising considering the horrors they inevitably witnessed -botched transports that left countless dolphins injured and even maimed. I personally witnessed air burns, a blinding and much, much worse, devastating for the dolphins that survived, because - as my pen colleagues always reminded me - many didn’t.
Working the pens was physically and mentally gruelling. Early training was always conducted lying belly down on wet platforms, so we could interact with our dolphin captives eye to eye. Fifteen-hour days were commonplace.
It was here that I witnessed my first suicide dolphin – a phenomenon that the captive industry vehemently denies. It was also here where I learned to hand-catch in preparation for transports, veterinary treatments or force-feeds - the latter being horribly distressing.
The force-feeds consisted of wrapping disinfected towel gags around the upper and lower jaws of the manually pinned-down dolphins, followed by physically pushing lubricated herring down into their throats so as to activate their swallowing mechanism. This nightmare was normally performed five fish at a time, punctuated by brief rest periods. Even so, this was not always successful, as the dolphins often vomited back their forced feed.
Much worse than the vomiting, however, was the unseen damage inflicted on the dolphins’ psyches, because once they’d undergone this torturous procedure, they were left vulnerable to what many pen trainers refer to as the ‘dolphin mind-set’, a mental condition that, once activated, proves difficult to reverse … suicide by self-starvation.
In fact, my only fond memory of the pens was Duchess and Herb’e (Flippa), my beloved Perfect Pair, for it was their brilliance that allowed the three of us to escape that hellhole and head to our first purpose-built dolphinarium.
The rest, as they say, is history. Over the next three years, my two magnificent show dolphins took the aqua-circus by storm, a story lovingly chronicled by the Holroyds in their book series, The Perfect Pair Dolphin Trilogy - a warts-and-all exposé that I pray will help bring down this horrendous industry.
As for me, once I’d made my decision to walk away from the aqua-circus, I was never tempted to return, despite a lucrative offer to train Europe’s then only captive orca. My reason? I viewed my achievements not with pride, but with shame. Nevertheless, my experiences are now a documented part of dolphinarium history - a tool to shine a light into the sinister and murky world of captive cetaceans.
Thanks for listening.