The credit belongs not to the man who captures the essence.
That is conquistador spirit all over again.
Man’s claim to everything on this planet.
The credit belongs to the animal who gleans that element of mystery, intrigue, and reflects something in our own natures back to us.
Spent some time with these animals one morning.
At first, it was typical Jungle Book style.
Mowgli in the forests, trying to befriend the monkey, trying to be part of their crew.
They were very aware of me the entire time.
I liked this picture because the infant was the most fascinated by me.
Unfamiliar creature I was.
He wasn’t quite sure what to make of me, especially when I was obviously talking to them, or shrieking in delight.
He would look to his mother for cues.
Part of me felt sad for relating to them through the lens of a camera.
The iPhone culture has generally saddened me in terms of how we relate to rare and spectacular life forms.
Many wildlife excursions are proliferated with selfie shoots.
It has become normalised, to the point, its the expected behaviour.
The animal is mostly reduced to a tool, to gain status, attention or social currency.
In our absurd desire to show everybody how happy and exciting a time we are having, we miss the whole thing.
I think some animals have literally gotten used to this modem of relating to humans.
Unlike humans, however, they are lest flattered by the fame.
Eye to eye contact is disappearing.
Soul to soul connection is disappearing.
I was behind the lens for this picture.
In some ways, I wish I hadn’t been.
I got a good picture yes.
But, what did I miss?
Vulnerability with that animal.
A one-way view.
I captured its soul.
To some degree.
I didn’t let it see mine.
I didn’t honour the opportunity for connection.
For momentary shared meaning in this experience we call life.
For humility in the face of things I do not know.
However, without my camera, I may not have been there, in that position, at that moment, taking the time to be with the animal. Perhaps therein lies the real tragedy.
I loved seeing the mother and baby bond.
The complete dependence on the mother and the fierce protection she exhibited.
They were all so human.
That was the constant thought, fascination, buzzing through my mind as I stayed with them.
The best was watching them move on.
The older males would go first.
Then make calls back to the others.
No ‘man’ was ever left behind.
Their bonds and loyalty to each other was strikingly apparent from a brief hour or two.
Their bonds were solid.
They were all constantly communicating.
Constantly letting each other know where this strange little Asian woman was.
My GPS co-ordinates as I scurried around trying to position myself in the best places.
If you think about it; the camera and the rifle are not so different.
I could be a threat, or a mere spectator.
Either way; they knew fully well, I was watching them all.
They were watching me back.
I feel like once you have a strong appreciation for one animal, you start to look at them all differently.
For me, the animal changer, was a domestic, high strung, strutting, Queen-like, ginger cat, called Saba.
This cat found me in a time, when I wasn’t so happy.
I was grieving the loss of something.
And felt very unsupported in that process, as not many understood why I would grieve.
The cat used to follow me down the road.
Jump over hedges to keep up with me.
If it were a human, I would have felt I was being stalked.
But, since it was a cat, I relaxed a little.
In the end, I gave in.
Didn’t understand what this cat sensed in me.
Saw in me, wanted from me.
I was reasonably flattered I guess.
So I would stop.
Spend time with the cat.
Deal with its mood swings.
Generally tried to understand this crazy creature.
Saba and me are completely the same.
Stroppy as hell.
Fierce and deadly if you get on the wrong side of us.
And complete and total baby whiners really.
This crazy cat taught me so much.
I eventually loved him so much, I could sit there for hours.
On the street mind, because its not actually my cat, looking more crazy than normal to passers by.
I would watch him closely.
I loved him dearly.
But to love something is to never possess.
If we can ever manage such a thing.
To love something is to set them free, in every possible way a soul can be set free.
And this brings me to the dark ages of captivity.
When I was recently abroad, I visited an animal ‘rehabilitation and sanctuary’.
It was a prison.
Lets just say it like it is.
I walked around, observing how we had justified the entire thing.
Education, research, rehabilitation from what?
From our impact on their habitats.
What flipped me was observing an absolutely stunning white tiger.
It was pacing back and forth in the tiny tiny arena.
The glass panes were packed with tourists, iphones, and camera flashes in its face.
I couldn’t stand it for about 5 minutes.
The insanity that would ensue from a life of that day in, day out, was too painful to comprehend.
And I felt completely powerless to help it.
Better to forget the whole thing.
Here was an animal, that in its rightful element, would dominate the kingdom.
Could tear us all down in one effortless flash.
Being forced to endure a lifetime of absolute no choice, no freedom, humiliation of the worst kind, boredom, mindless boredom, agitation, repetition day in, day out, no meaning, forced procreation, cut off from its natural surroundings, its home.
Orphans of the planet, subjected to human torture.
So that we get to feel superior.
We caged the tiger and revered at it.
We caged the tiger.
Stripped it of its stripes so to speak, and humiliated it, to compensate for our own insecurities and never ending need to dominate every single thing we find on this planet.
Two American tourists decided it would be funny to bang loudly on the glass to provoke the tiger.
The poor animal was going berserk.
It was snarling at them, trying to fight back, forgetting the glass there, end its un-justice.
It looked so deeply in anguish, unable to exert its rightful anger, its true force.
A wise animal would have simply got as much distance as it could and ignored the tourists.
This one hadn’t lost its spirit yet.
I loved it for that. Respected it, and pitied it.
Because that animal will have a slow, and painful death.
A death of the worst kind.
It will be killed from the inside out.
When it was happening, it was too much for me.
I walked over fuelled by emotion and publicly shouted ‘enough’.
Find another way to have some fun.
Can you not see what your doing to the animal?
As soon as I said it, they felt bad, they seemed to realise they had done something not nice.
But why, under social pressures, and norms, do we forget this kind of respect for the animals of our world?
And why, as a society do we not value them for their own brilliance, and instead for their functionality, their profitability, their servitude to us?
How many photographers profit of the brilliance of animals for their own careers?
And how many of those photographers actually give something back to those animals in return?
I was never an animal activist, animal rights person, animal anything.
I’m not great with animals naturally and the activist community seemed a bit wacky to me.
But, something in me has changed in the last few years, where I have so much respect for them now.
Even the spiders, and ants of our world are truly creatures that deserve our utmost respect.
This brings to me to the tragedy of Orcas and dolphins in captivity.
As you can see my post has moved on from the monkey pictures.
I use the pictures as a start point, to get my message across which is the real thing I want to say.
Orcas and dolphins in captivity is a horrid business.
I urge anyone who has not already watched the documentary film ‘Blackfish’ to sit down one evening and see it through.
A full length version can be found on Netflix.
The film follows the biography of a now famous killer whale called Tilikum.
Tilikum basically went mad, through being cut off from his loved ones, his natural home, and forced to endure tortuous living conditions.
In the end, his misery drove him to murder one of the trainers intentionally.
The whale knew exactly what it was doing.
We turned a free-roaming spirit, into a cold blooded murderer.
And yes, killer whales kill in the wild.
But, they do not care for killing humans.
This whale was not a cruel murderer.
He was a whale in a serious amount of pain, with very few choices and imprisoned into a life of insanity.
For both his sake, and the girl who lost her life, we owe it to them, to never do that again to whale or human.
But money rules once again.
Orcas and dolphins are big business.
Like pornography and prostitution is big business.
These businesses are going absolutely nowhere until people take a stand.
Shanghai has just announced it is opening a multi-billion theme park ‘Ocean world’ in September 2018;
Like some kind of cruel fantasy world, that hides slavery and imprisonment behind sugar coated glistening walls.
Its like something out of Hansel and Gretel.
The majority of the earnings for this park, will come through tourism.
As tourists, and consumers of these places, we must begin to use how and where we spend our money to support what we believe is making the world the better place.
The trap I think many people fall into with Orcas and dolphins is when they have young children.
Any parent who loves their child wants them to experience the wonders and magic of these animals and not everybody has one they can see in their local beach.
Most parents when faced with loving their child or loving the Orca will quite simply choose their child.
The Orca or dolphin’s happiness is forgotten in the choice making process.
The captivity business thrives on this ignorance.
And on the honourable desire of the parents to give their children an amazing and memorable experience.
I do not think we can rely on people coming to the conclusion to leave the animals alone.
It may take many many years before more people accept it.
It requires people to speak up and challenge others.
I don’t think its a coincidence one of my most favourite movies of all time is ‘Free Willy’.
Free Willy 1, 2 and 3.
It doesn’t get better than that to me.
A boy who can communicate with the whales, gets to ride on them in the water, and then sets them free. When in trouble, the whale comes back to save him, and together they ride through fire to freedom!!!!
Even as a child, who knew nothing about captivity, or understood little about why it might be bad for the animal to be caged up; the sense of elation I got, watching the animal finally free again, re-united with its family.
It doesn’t take science to prove why we need to release these animals back.
It doesn’t take research to show us something which changes everything.
Ask a 3 year old whether an animal should be in captivity and see the answer you get.
The story darkens further, if people here have not heard of Taiji in Japan.
Every year, around Jan-April time I believe, there is a mass slaughter of dolphins in this region.
I use the word slaughter very intentionally.
Majority of dolphins are sold off for meat consumption, and a smaller percentage are shipped around the world for the International captivity trade.
There is nothing humane about this process;
They use sound torture to drive the dolphins into a trap.
As humans we have brilliant brains.
But, what are we using them for?
Life or murder?
To ensure, I am not encouraging cultural hate here, I would like to emphasise a Japanese man’s comment once, in response to international criticism of their practices.
He stated that, the West slaughters cattle every single day in completely inhumane ways and nobody blinks an eye. But the Japanese, who view dolphins differently to other cultures I guess, get completely slated for their treatment of dolphins.
He has a point.
And cultural differences are generally a good thing.
But, this is not something I can accept due to cultural differences.
We protect what we love.
And I definitely love dolphins and whales.
How do we combat such big corporations and powers, with so much money behind them?
It can seem so hopeless at times.
We have to remember some of these people, the Japanese fishermen in particular, may be doing the work because one, it is culturally acceptable, and two, because, it is a very easy way to make large sums of money fast.
If they are struggling to stay afloat, or have children to feed, I feel there is a tendency in all of us, to do things we wouldn’t dream of doing, under certain circumstances.
My fight is more with the large powers.
The ones who profit of the suffering of another.
The ones whose greed will never be satiated.
Are they evil people?
At times it can feel that way, but I think the reality is they are just lost.
And they will not crumble until enough of us make enough noise.
And choose to care for the animal’s freedom more than our ‘entertainment’.
I often believe there is no point, but the point is always to try.
Even when there is no flipping chance.
If anyone has any useful links or ideas, please comment below.
Some people get afraid of being called childish and also mock people who are fully grown adults and still want to ‘save the whales’.
To those people, I say, you died long ago.