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On the Campaign Trail

Freddy and I pose for the TV cameras. Clearly not following the I Ching's instructions.

When I reach the Bateau Chateau in the morning the telephone is ringing. I hurry up the stairs, open the door, rush in and pick up the receiver.


"Dr. Chesher? Hi. My name is Scott Lambert and I work with the 11 AM show on Channel 7. We saw the bit you did on the Willosy show last night and are interested in doing something with a little more depth. Could we come over and talk with you about it, maybe tomorrow morning?"

"Sure, that would be great." I give him instructions on how to get here.

No sooner do I put down the phone than it rings again. This time it's Frank Talbot from Mcquarie University. "Rick! I saw you on the Willosy show last night."

"What did you think of it?" I ask, "I didn't like it much and to tell the truth I didn't like going out there and filming it either."

"Why...I thought it was pretty good, actually," Frank comments. "And I heard the show on Radio 2GO as well. Would you be interested in coming over to the University and having a talk with the biology faculty here? We'd also like you to do another radio talk show for us and perhaps address the students as well. Make a day of it?"

"OK, I'd appreciate the opportunity. When?"

"How about tomorrow?"

"I'll be filming an interview for the 11AM show in the morning, what about after lunch?" I ask.

"That will be fine and congratulations on the 11AM show interview, it's a very big show with the housewives."

I hang up and the phone rings, this time it's Estelle and, as usual she's talking mid-sentence by the time I have the receiver to my ear. In essence, she is absolutely furious because I upstaged her and got the TV crew out there to the Lion Park after she had postponed the demonstration.

"Estelle, I didn't plan it that way. The Willosy people called the shots on when the interview would be and I thought it would fit in with your schedule because I didn't know you were canceling the demonstration."

She begins another harangue about Sue Arnold's article in the Sun yesterday evening and I cut her short, "Estelle, listen, I know the article in the Sun didn't mention you but I didn't write it, OK? What counts is getting people interested in the project and getting some action. I'm just going along with the flow - I'm not promoting anything, just trying to get the dolphins out of Bulley's hole in the ground. You are free to help out in any way you can, but giving me a ration of shit is hardly a big help." and I hang up ignoring the ongoing chittering.

Sun Herald dolphin article



The phone rings again, this time it's Sue Arnold. "Hi, Sue, hey thanks very much for the article in the Sun last night. It was really super. You know, it's the first time I ever gave a story to the press and it came out without any errors at all. You are some lady."

"We try to please," Sue says with a low, sexy voice, "I saw the Willosy encounter. Not bad for a start. Did 11AM get hold of you?"

"Yes, did you arrange that?"

"Of course, my dear boy." She sounds smug.

"Why don't you come over here so I can give you an enormous kiss?" I grin into the phone, playing with the cord.

"I'm on my way," She flirts. "I thought you ought to know the dolphins were a topic in the Parliament and the Minister for the Environment, Mr. Bedford, has said there will be no more permits issued to collect wild dolphins from New South Wales waters."

"Hey, fantastic! Was there any response?"

"I believe the Prime Minister will make it a law in the near future." Sue informs me, "The other members hear-heared Mr. Bedford's reply. But so far the dolphins in the Lion Park are getting no reprieve. Bulley is holding tight and the Parks and Wildlife Service is hesitant to take him to court."

"Sue, I think we have to push hard on the positive side of the issue, you know, the idea of the dolphin sea-side park within the National Park System. Kind of a half-way house concept. It will be a compromise between just letting the dolphins go and keeping them in that damned swimming pool. I've looked over several prospective sites and think the Basin in Pittwater would be the best. There is a big, deep, embayment there, completely surrounded by National Forest, very scenic and isolated, with only a small entrance to close off. The dolphins could be put in there and when they are habituated to the Bay, the fence could be removed and the dolphins allowed to enter or leave. Hopefully the trainer - maybe Genene - could train them well enough so they would want to return. If not..."

"If you love me, let me free, If I return, I love you too," sings Sue.

"Why is it everything you say is so sexy?" I laugh. "Yes, that's it. If they return our love, they'll stay with us. I talked with Frank Talbot about it and he's hot to establish a Cetacean Science Center at Mcquarie University. It would have a field set-up at the sea-side park to do serious scientific work on cetaceans.

"There could be a museum of whaling, a cetacean library, a dolphin theater, and a special research vessel to take tourists and scientists out to interact with wild dolphins off the coast here. Thousands of dolphins and whales migrate along these shores and we really don't know much about them.

"If the idea works, you can be sure other countries will follow Sydney's lead. Sydney would be remembered the world over as the first city to undertake such a project; a major stride forward in ocean wildlife management."

"Can you write all that down and send me a copy? No, I'll come over and get it," Sue decides.

"I'll start writing now and I'm already waiting with great impatience for your arrival, Bye."

I type out the ideas for a sea-side dolphin park as letters to Greenpeace, the Jonah Foundation, The Director of the Parks and Wildlife Service, The Minister for the Environment, and Bulley's crowd.

As I finish the phone rings again. Its the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Could I give a telephone interview? Why not? Now? Why not?

About five minutes into the live show they get a phone call at the studio from Perth. The caller says there is a new multi-million dollar oceanarium just nearing completion in Perth and they are worried about the dolphins along the west coast of Australia. What does Dr. Chesher say about this new facility?

"There is no reason why the concept of a sea-side dolphin park can't interface with a modern dolphinarium. The limits of what dolphins will and will not put up with can be tested by allowing the dolphins access to the open sea for the majority of the year and placing them on display in more confined conditions for short periods. This is now the standard system at modern zoos. The Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney holds giraffes and other large mammals on display for about 8 weeks out of the year. After they have served some display time, they are put out to pasture in an extensive reserve west of Sydney while rested giraffes are taken from the farm and put on display."

"So you think the new Perth Oceanarium might be OK for dolphins if used in conjunction with a sea-side dolphin park?" Asks the commentator.

"Perhaps, although I don't know what the facilities are actually like at the new facility. What I don't understand is why developers spend many millions of dollars to construct dolphinaria when the dolphins would be more useful and entertaining if worked with in their own natural environment." Not bad for ad-lib.

"It's clear developers of oceanaria rely on the dolphins as circus performers to increase their gate. Less than 50 percent of the dolphins captured at sea survive to become circus performers. They die from accidents during capture, from suicide when put into tanks, and from stress related diseases once in the holding facility. This means, no matter how you look at it, humans are murdering dolphins so we can enjoy their circus acts and make money for the developers of the oceanaria. Whether or not this is morally correct is for the public to decide.

"If people pay to see the circus acts they support murdering the dolphins and holding them in permanent captivity under stressful conditions. If people don't pay to see the dolphin circus acts, they do not support this kind of behavior."

"But don't you think dolphinaria are useful educational experiences?" The announcer asks.

"They were. I don't think they are any more. I would rather see a dolphin in the wild or a well done television program or movie on dolphins in the wild than a circus act in a swimming pool by captive dolphins jumping through a hoop. Some creatures don't belong in a circus tank and dolphins are one of those things."

"Well, that may be OK for you, but what about the people who don't have access to boats to go see a wild dolphin?" the DJ asks.

"Look, if you want to see Ayer's Rock, you've got to go to Ayer's Rock. I've never been to Ayer's Rock but I've seen plenty of photographs and even movies of it so I feel like I know it pretty well. But if I wanted to go see it, I would. The same applies to dolphins and whales.

"There are several special places in the world where you can go to play with wild dolphins. Monkey Mia in Western Australia is one of them. A family of dolphins regularly comes to the beach to play with people. Charter Boats are available to take people to see wild whales and dolphins. There is no reason why seeing a wild dolphin should be beyond the budget of most Australians, and a trip to the sea shore to see one free is much more rewarding and educational than seeing them in a swimming pool in a Lion Park for $4.50 a person."

I hang up and sit in the silent room looking out at the Moira. There are voices outside, coming down the stairs from the road. One of the voices is Freddy, who has been shopping in town. The other is Sue Arnold. I go outside to greet them. They come down the stairs in the afternoon light side by side, laughing.

"Well, look what you found shopping," I leer as they come down the last stairs, "Are we going to eat her for dinner?"

They laugh and Sue declines, "I'd love to stay but I've got to get home and fix dinner for my two sons, Matthew and Luke. Next time. What have you got for me?"

"Step into the Bateau Chateau and we shall see," I bow her in.

It is almost midnight before I finally quit. Just before I hit the sack I ask the I Ching, "Is the Sydney Dolphin Connection, the sea-side park the right program?"

The coins roll The Joyous Lake. Ha ha, well, what do you know? The I Ching has a sense of humor. The Joyous Lake indeed. "Perseverance is favorable. Success. The joyous is infectious. Be steadfast but gentle. Join with others in the planning."

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