Wednesday, July 12, 2006

False Images: Cambodia is not Sarawak

Yesterday, The Eastern Times a local newspaper printed a front cover story on Sarawak’s Irrawaddy dolphins accompanied by a photo of an Irrawaddy taken in the Mekong River. The photo shows an Irrawaddy dolphin kneeling on a sand bar or rock. The photo (see here) was taken by Pete Davidson, although the Eastern Times did not provide a credit or copyright reference or an accurate photo caption. As such the reader is led to believe that the photo was taken in Sarawak which is simply not true.

The photo is a spectacular image that shows some unusual behaviour. But this behaviour is not something that you will ever see in Sarawak. Recently, there has been a lot of hype surrounding the Irrawaddy dolphins of Sarawak and dolphin watching tours. Whilst press coverage increases awareness it is no help at all if articles are poorly researched and images mis-represent reality. Earlier in the week The Star ran a poorly penned piece on Sarawak’s Irrawaddy dolphins with a misleading headline and now the Eastern Times has chipped in by showing a picture of a dolphin taken in Cambodia to accompany an article on dolphins in Sarawak.

I’ve been told that The Eastern Times article has resulted in inquiries asking tour operators to take them to see Irrawaddy dolphins sitting on sandbars like in the picture! If you are considering going on a local dolphin watching tour, bare in mind that you are not going to seeing Irrawaddy dolphins sitting on rocks and performing circus tricks in Sarawak. If you need accurate information on what kind of behaviour you will see on a tour, speak to a tour operator that knows the dolphins and has a track record of running tours. As I’ve said before go with a responsible operator such as CPH Travel who pioneered dolphin watching tours in Sarawak. Avoid the inexperienced operators and ignore local press articles that show pictures of unusual dolphin behaviour taken in other countries.


FH2O said...

This is very misleading indeed.

We took 4 guests out on monday afternoon and 2 of them were out on the tour you mentioned, a few days earlier and they were disappointed that they did not see any. They were determined to see dolphins and wanted to try their luck out on a kayak; a more ecofriendly approach.

Not only did we saw plenty but also of the dolphin doing a full breach!

pesut said...

There is no guarantee with wildlife watching. Even on a kayak!! That is why using accurate images is important. Printing a picture from elsewhere in the world and making it seem like its in Sarawak is misleading and can give rise to false expectations.