I Think Dolphins Matter More than Movie Stars

Somehow I think it’s bizarre that today’s lead stories on both of New Zealand’s major media outlets are about Brad & Angelina getting a divorce. Meanwhile, in Syria… Russia is bombing the UN.

It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other media resources that are devoted to celebrity news. If you wait in line at the supermarket, you can pick up any number of splashy magazines which offer screaming headlines about Kim Kardasian’s cellulite or weirdly cloth-eared “love stories” about whoever your favorite sports star happens to be dating. I just wish that we had the option of two or three sensible media outlets which avoided such un-news and kept their focus on more important things.

A couple of days ago, the New Zealand government announced the start of a consultation process for awarding rights to over 500,000 square kilometers of ocean for offshore oil drilling. 4,000 square kilometers of this area forms part of a marine sanctuary. About 1/3 of the sanctuary, as a matter of fact. This sanctuary happens to be home to New Zealand’s critically endangered Maui Dolphin – of which there are just 55 animals remaining. You can read about this development here. On a Chinese website.

The fact is, this drilling proposal has been rolling forward for about two years, and it did get reported on by New Zealand journalists two years ago. Of course, even back then the government got the final word. Oil drilling won’t hurt dolphins. Nothing to see here. I think the fact that the story was written (and then buried) two years ago means that NZ journalists won’t even bother now. Hell, why would they consider questioning the government? They might get invited to less cocktail parties. Nope, let’s just talk about Brad & Angelina. People need to know about that shit.

The fact is, with just 55 Maui Dolphins left in existence, there is very little money to be made from their conservation. Despite the fact that most of them live along the same shore where I live and work, I’ve never seen a Maui Dolphin. The vast majority of people never will. People like dolphins, but you can’t trundle then around zoos and photograph them doing cute things, like you can with pandas. This creates a disconnect of consciousness which makes people less aware of their existence and therefore less concerned about their preservation. Yet New Zealand is a group of fairly remote islands, which gives us both a selection of weirdly unique fauna and the terrible reality of having many of those animals dwindling into just double digits. Despite this (or perhaps because of this) we’re actually pretty good at keeping those animals alive. There are 123 Kakapo left on earth, and that comes after many many years of human effort to get the population back from the brink of extinction. It almost certainly helps that Kakapo are brimming with personality and freakin’ adorable. So I don’t know if we can do the same with dolphins, but I do know that it definitely won’t happen if we just treat their home like any other piece of real estate.

And this stuff is important to me, in a way that Brad & Angelina never will be.



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