My time on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife has been absolutely amazing. During my four-week tenure, I have been exposed to so many new experiences, many of which have been truly eye-opening, and prompted a profound level of self-reflection on the ecological and ethical implications of my past actions, as well as how I want to act going forward.
I witnessed a pod of wild Common Bottle-nosed dolphins breach (jump) meters into the air whilst socialising. During another encounter, I saw the swift, agile and coordinated movements of a cetacean pod mid-hunt. These were the kinds of sights that I previously thought I would only ever witness through the lens of a BBC nature documentary. I felt so privileged to observe these mesmerising sights without interfering with the Dolphins’ natural behaviour.
For the first time, I began to deeply consider the ethics of keeping cetaceans in captivity for entertainment and profit. It is not the first time it had occurred to me, but it is the first time such thoughts have lingered. The first-hand experience of seeing these free, lively and majestic wild pods deeply contrasted with what I have personally witnessed from captive cetaceans- seeming now robotic and restricted by comparison. Previously, my conscience had been kept clear by the logic that even if I attended parks or Zoos that held captive cetaceans, I was not really supporting the initiative if I didn’t personally attend the shows. I no longer have this point of view.
From group documentary showings to the healthy debates and open discussions that characterised my time in Tenerife, the project educated me on the major threats to marine ecosystems: (plastic pollution, climate change, overfishing) as well as what helps promote and hinder conservation efforts, and the direct effect my actions have. For example, due to the extra resources used during production, I discovered that you need to use the average cotton, re-usable shopping bag over 7000 times before it becomes less impactful than a single-use plastic bag. Thus, every time I have forgotten to bring a re-usable bag I already own to the supermarket I have done more harm buying a new reusable bag than a single-use bag at the checkout.
In this project, what you reap is what you sow. The personal satisfaction you will get from simply taking your data-collection tasks seriously is incredible. By retaining an open mind throughout your activities, you may gain insight that can profoundly change your outlook on the world.