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Russia, November 24, 1997

Look! Its Flipper in a Swimming Pool

Mamilian exploitation depresses us all, but not the Russians

I like Russian sports, and I love going to sporting events with my Russian host brother, Dima. So I try to go with him when I find out about upcoming events. Strangely, we rarely go to sporting events, usually getting sidetracked to strange places instead. Today is a good example.

Last week Dima and I talked about going to a basketball game. He was very excited about going to a game, and Pasha, his brother was quite keen on joining us. I called him on Wednesday to see when the next game was. In my poor Russian and his funky English we had a long conversation, during which I was quite confused. I understood that there wasn't a b-ball game soon, and that we would go somewhere else instead. He said (in Russian), 'Its a cincinnati, the same in English too, a cincinnati, with the big fish, Flipper.'

Now I know there is a city in America called Cincinnati, and I know that Flipper is a dolphin, something like a big fish, but I was quite confused. I asked around, and several stumped Russians later, I found out that we were going to a delfinaria where dolphins would perform for us. Hmm. I am always very wary of anything involving animals in Russia after seeing the circus and walking by the Moscow Zoo. Neither would come close to pleasing the Humane Society, much less a PETA activist.

The delfinaria did not disappoint me. A diving pool, minus the lane floats served as the home for a Beluga whale, four bottlenose dolphins, two seals, and a sea lion. Close quarters for the whale and the dolphins, especially since I didn't notice any water lanes for them to leave the pool for the old lap lanes in an adjacent pool behind the bleachers. Of course the four Beluga whales in the old lap lanes would not want that many new neighbours anyway. I've been behind the scenes at Sea World (and this was nuttin like that!), viewing all the massive pumps and filters they use to maintain a clean yet balanced water climate for the mammals. I know a converted swimming pool doesn't have large enough pumps and Russians sure wouldn't put in super filters, so the water was questionable at best and a crime at the worst. The scene was especially painful since I've played with dolphins in the wild.

During the show, I could help but to think how, compared to the open ocean, these poor creatures were in jail, a jail without an aquatic version of tv, friends, or a yard, just confinement for the pleasure of humans. Oh the humans were pleased too. I guess Muscovites don't get out much, because everyone was amazed and thrilled by the quite limited show. Marineland, Sea World's poor cousin, puts on a Broadway show compared to this place. All the mammals did was jump out of the water and wave with their flippers. Oh, the usual ball balancing too. The tired show was followed by the chance to have a photo with the whale jumping out of the water to touch your hand, or the dolphins jumping onto the deck so you could have a photo touching them. About half the crowd put down $10 a pop for the photo opportunity.

The whole setup was sad. The Russians were going for a Sea World in Moscow, a city not known to be kind to humans, much less ocean mammals! All I can say is that I was glad it was an indoor pool, so the dolphins wouldn't freeze to death. The Beluga, sea lion, and seals would probably prefer to be cold.

Oh, one last annoying point. O'Neill apparently sponsors the show, with six huge banners around the pool. I'm never gonna buy their stuff again now. They gotta have a conscience before they start dropping cash on such mammalian exploitation.

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