I’m Jedol the dolphin, and I’m terrified
I am a dolphin, and I am named Jedol. You all know that the dolphin is a smart creature, so I am quite smart. But I was very naive when I was caught by people in May 2009. I was 9 years old at the time and wasn’t careful enough around humans because I believed that, as a protected species, I wouldn’t be captured. But I was, and two months later, I ended up at Seoul Grand Park. The officials there purchased me without acknowledging that I was illegally caught.
I have learned to survive in the zoo for better or worse. I am trained as a show animal, jumping through hula hoops and performing trick jumps. I have come to be friends with my trainers, and we have a certain connection.
There is a saying, “Compliments make even whales dance,” but that’s not true for dolphins. I don’t dance for compliments - I dance to get sardines.
But don’t pity me, as I have pride. If you think about it, I am not so different from the people who go to work every day and get harassed by mean bosses only to get a month’s worth of sardines. And don’t forget about the living man and woman from Joseon who were “displayed” at the Osaka Exposition in 1903 and the Tokyo Exposition in 1907. What about Sarah Baartman, who suffered the humiliation of being exhibited all over Europe in the early 19th century as “Hottentot Venus”? The South African woman died young at the age of 26 after being abused in freak shows.
But I don’t want to go home, either. Do you remember Keiko the orca from the film “Free Willy”? Children around the world celebrated Keiko’s return to his home, Iceland. However, he couldn’t find his place among wild orca groups after being set free. He didn’t eat well in the ocean, and 18 months later, he died of pneumonia. Just like orcas, dolphins are social. If I failed to find a family in the wild, I would meet the same fate as Keiko.
You are spending 870 million won ($759,000) to send me home but still only see what you want. What about other dolphins? How about other animals and plants? Are you going to drive them out of zoos and botanical gardens and let them live in the wild? What about dogs and cats living in homes with families?
After the decision to release me into the ocean, the Whale Museum in Ulsan acquired two new dolphins. What’s going on here? There’s no consistency. The show staged by you, people, is a lot more interesting than my dolphin show.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun