Drop the Dead DolphinAugust 12, 2006
Kratie, a small town in Cambodia, has long been famous for its Irradawy dolphins. People would make the tedious journey from the nation”s capital, Phnom Penh, to sneak a glance at these rare dolphins, that were rumoured to be going extinct.
As it turns out, they are in fact extinct. For the past 3 years a local group have conspired to fake the regular appearance of these dolphins with the sole aim of perpetuating the local tourism traffic that they bring.
Teams of 3 men and women have been taking rotational shifts and using rubber inflatable devices, partly submerged and weighted down, to give the appearance of the dolphins. The scam was uncovered when a foreigner, who had brought her own boat to travel along the vast expanses of Cambodia”s lakes and tributaries, punctured one of the devices and seriously injured one of its operators with her boat”s propellor blades.
“I was devasted”, the distraught young English woman was quoted as saying. “I thought I had killed one of Cambodia”s most precious assets and a fellow mammal. I was much happier later, when I learned I had only severed off a local”s arm.” Both the local police and tourism police were called to the scene, along with representitives from the young woman”s embassy and lard-arsed female NGO workers. Reporters soon followed, as did a swarm of local fishermen who were eager to catch the meat of the dolphin or the local fisherman”s arm, both of which were considered to give good fortune to whoever who ate it, and hence would fetch a high price at market.
Further investigations are underway, but already provincial authorities have arrested 12 local village members, 6 local community leaders, and 1 national representative of the Tourism Council. Equipment including 3 inflatable toy dolphins, a lilo, 3 sets of Floaties painted grey, and breathing apparatus were all confiscated in pre-dawn raids from local village houses. “These people bring disgrace upon our tourism”, a highly placed local official was quoted as saying.
“To show that we have a serious reputation, we have arrested the culprits and they will be put on show in Kratie City Centre for everyone to see. Unfortunately we had to seal off the area to protect them from harm, but we are selling tickets so that people can view their horrible nature.
Tickets are selling for 10,000 riel per person. Food and drinks are available from my wife at the stall inside the barriers”. The scam perpetrators are expected to be held in custody, and kept on public display indefinately, and it is hoped that they will replace the now defunct dolphin tourist trade with their own display for at least the next 5 years. Again the highly placed local official was quoted as saying, “We are very inspired to continue to remind people that we are serious about protecting our town”s reputation.
If the people forget and the tourists stop coming, then we can start making the guilty people bleed by cutting them, and the tourists will come back again to see. If anyone should stop living because of this, we can replace them with someone from their family who is still living. We all understand the importance of tourism”. One of the scammers being held denies any wrongdoing.
“I planned on helping with the trick, but when it was my turn, I always fell asleep from drinking too much palm wine”. Her friends and family agree with her, as does a local NGO which explained that this was why the dolphins were so hard to see and at times would not be seen for long periods of time. International monitors have been left red faced over the incident. Local and international NGO”s recently published a report claiming that there were still 6 Irradawy dolphins living in the area. They have now admitted that they too had fallen prey to the scam, and the dolphins were in fact now extinct. “We wish we had spent our grant money on looking for dolphins instead of playing golf”, said one NGO member who was responsbile for mapping the movements of the dolphins.
Another NGO member said “I once tagged one with a tracking device, and it sunk to the bottom of the river. I didn”t say anything, because it was my first day”. Tourists are dismayed at the discovery. One tourist said, “I took 4 photos of the dolphins and I wondered why I could never see them in the photos. I waited for 3 hours to see them, and they only popped up so briefly. I was devasted when I got the photos developed and saw that I had missed the picture! But now I understand why. I demand a free bottle of ionised and purified bottle of water for my wasted time”.
In a classic case of “I told you so”, a rotund Englishman working for the Dept of Fisheries in Phnom Penh said he knew that the Irradawy dolphin was extinct months ago, when the last living member of the species was found unceremoniously dumped in the underground carpark of the Dept”s Phnom Penh office. The dolphin allegedly remained there rotting for 2 months in perhaps the most apathetic display since Man was first heard to say “I dont care”. The Englishman was quoted as saying “blah blah blah”, and something else, before the reporter taking the quote died of boredom.
Special thanks to Heinrich manoeuvre for the title graphics