A Dolphin Named Mole

The last time I was here in Taiji I went to see Angel, whom I had heard so much about through the social media of the world. She was strong and big, and alabaster white in her tank. I had seen her in videos from months before, where she was listless, being bullied, and smaller in stature than the other species that shared her tank. Well, on this first visit, I also saw a Dolphin that I nicknamed “Mole”. I christened him this because of a pink spot at the end of his nose and his dark upper side and spotted underbelly. He is a spotted dolphin. He was so friendly, chasing after Angel in the tank, like a love sick pup, yet also coming right up to the glass to stare into my eyes. He continued to return to take me in. I am allergic to captivity, it wrenches my gut, but man oh man, this dolphin had my attention.

Mole coming to say Hi at the Taiji Whale Museum

Mole at the Taiji Whale Museum Photo: DolphinProject.net

I went up the stairs to the topside of the tank, where you can see the dolphins swimming below. There are six of them in this tank including Angel. Angel is the biggest by far, and is no longer the meek one in the pod. If anything she is entirely the opposite, displaying dominance, some aggression even, and complete independence from the other dolphins that she shares her tiny world with. On Sept. 2nd, 2014, when I met Mole for the first time, I decided to sing when I was at the upside of the tank. There was no one around … he immediately started spy hopping and then made his way fast where I was and stopped. I laughed and looked at him. I said nothing really, and he began to thrash and click. I started to sing a soft melody again, some Irish ballad I would soothe my children to sleep with when they were babies, and he stopped again, staring directly into my eyes and with such intent. I walked away from the tank to observe the pilot whale and false killer whale show happening in the sea pens below … I heard violent thrashing and clicking.  I returned to the edge of the tank and leaned over the bars to see this pink-nosed dolphin waiting for me. I sang again and he calmed. Eventually we had to depart, and he cried and thrashed the whole way down the stairs. It broke my heart. All of our hearts. So of course this time, returning to Taiji officially as a Cove Monitor, the first point of call after our morning monitoring of the boats on Sept 8th, was to go to the Taiji Whale Museum. I did not video that day as I was training with Terran, but I sang to Mole, and he remembered. He swam to my voice, as did some others in the tank. Angel must prefer punk rock to Irish ballads, becausee she was the only dolphin to show no interest in my singing what so ever! LOL! The day Terran left, for company I decided to go and sit with Mole and the dolphins in that tank. I have been singing to them, and videoing the responses that I get to my singing. They are craving attention and stimulation. Many of them are playing with dead fish and lying listless at the surface. This music I sing to them — for certainty brings them some joy. The reaction when I leave will tell tales. I am honored to have the voice to be here for them, but worry about what will happen when I am gone. I will not be able to visit again until I return as a Cove Monitor at the end of January …

Mole at the Taiji Whale Museum Photo: DolphinProject.net

Mole at the Taiji Whale Museum
Photo: DolphinProject.net

These dolphins are in such tight confinement, they are clearly distressed and depressed. My connection to Mole is strong, he recognises me and seeks me out. The others come and go to hear the songs as they choose. I wonder if it is taste in musical styles?! Haha! I jest. I do feel like there is a way I can connect and soothe them –Mole especially, by using music to calm and soothe. This dolphin has become very special to me. He fills my afternoons here, when I am finished monitoring the boats, taking all the photos, and completing the social media stuff. He is who I look for to soothe my lonely afternoons. Maybe this is a testament to how we do use animals for our own good … yet I believe that is not the way I am built. I would set him free in a heartbeat. Gosh, that is all I desire for this beautiful sensitive animal … to have him feel the ocean again, the sun on his face… and to hear the singing of his pod — NOT my voice. I have recorded many these dolphins’ responses to me. I will definitely gather more footage on this as it really is quite surreal … For now I will continue to visit him and the others, and I will continue to document.

Please consider supporting Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project on the front lines by making a  donation to the campaign or applying  to become a Dolphin Project Cove Monitor.

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Author: Vicki Kiely
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