A year ago an enterprising group of Japanese people embarked on a remarkable plan. Their goal was to bring kids from the Fukushima – where they have been restricted in their play outdoors because of high radioactivity levels due to the 2011 nuclear reactor meltdown – to a special camp where they could get turned on to the natural world. The place they chose was Mikura Island, a beautiful and remote place south of Tokyo. And the focal point for their wild nature experience was the bold idea that the kids would see and learn about and swim with the wild dolphins that frequent the island.
The 2014 Kids Dolphin Camp had such a transformative impact that the organizers realized they must continue it. Earth Island Institute’s Save Japan Dolphins campaign joined in to provide key funding. This year’s Dolphin Camp 2015 just finished and was an amazing success.
“All children swam with wild dolphins,” Tetsuo Nakahara told me. Tetsuo is one of the coordinators of the Camp. “They were very excited especially to see baby dolphins in the water. It took them a lot of courage to swim in deep water (about 45 feet deep), waves and wind. But the whole experience was surely special.”
He added: “They were in true nature, and that is something they will never forget in their lives.”
Unlike the terrible cruelty of Taiji, the Mikura Island people support and protect dolphins. Fishermen do not touch them. The islanders sponsor wild dolphins eco-tourism, which is so popular during the summer that they have a lottery for people applying to them for the swims.
We are seeing tremendous changes in the Japanese people. Many more are becoming aware of dolphins and love dolphins. Fewer and fewer are eating whale and dolphin meat. Many are standing up to oppose the Taiji dolphin hunts.
David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute programs, said: “Never underestimate the power of young people to make change. They will be the ones who bring a compassionate view about dolphins and other animals in Japan.”
It was nearly five years ago that the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima nuclear plant was devastated, with several of the reactors partially melting down and nuclear radiation spread over the land and dumped at sea. Nobody really knows how dangerous the radiation levels are or what the long-term effects will be, especially on growing children. Many of these Fukushima children are living in the shadow of the disaster and have had to limit their play outdoors or wear shoes when they go outside, because it is considered dangerous to go barefoot.
The juxtaposition of the program with the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown is also important . Similarly to the false government assurances that the dolphin meat is safe to eat, the people of Japan have been repeatedly assured that nuclear power was safe. The Japanese public is rightly now questioning the reliability of official information from the government.
These kids are the future of Japan, and Earth Island Institute is proud to be part of helping them learn about nature and wildlife and a world free of the threat of radiation exposure. The thrill of their seeing and swimming with wild dolphins will be with them forever.
Our thanks to the volunteers who organize the Kids Dolphin Camp and the people of Mikura Island. There are many other places in Japan where dolphin and whale watching cruises are growing in popularity.
Special thanks to Steven Thompson and the Taiji Dolphin Action Group Facebook Page for tipping us off to this great program, so Earth Island could help make this year’s Camp a reality.
Your donations helps Earth Island support the Fukushima Kids Dolphin Camp and our Save Japan Dolphins Campaign. Please consider a generous donation to support our ongoing work for the dolphins and the kids of Japan.
Watch the video of the 2014 Fukushima Kids Dolphin Camp:
FUKUSHIMA KIDS DOLPHIN CAMP 2014 - English Subtitled from leo pellegatta on Vimeo.
Photos and Video courtesy of Fukushima Kids Dolphin Camp.