An interview with the Dominican Whale Whisperer
The student Joaquin (16 years old) comes from Samaná and is the new 2020 Dominican Whale Whisperer. An interview on location.
Tim Philippus: Congratulations Joaquin, you are the 2020 Whale Whisperer of the Dominican Republic. How did you apply and why did the jury ultimately choose you?
Joaquin: Thanks a lot, Tim. I first found out about the Whale Whisperer Campaign when a woman put up a poster in our school that presented information about the whales in Samaná and called for people to apply to become Whale Whisperers and work to protect these animals. It immediately sparked my interest and I was eager to learn more about these majestic creatures and their backgrounds and way of life. I then applied by email and wrote an essay about the whales, which at first was only used internally and was not published. I believe that the jury finally chose me, because my motivation was obvious in my writing. Since I fulfilled all the requirements on top of that, they considered me a suitable candidate for the 2020 Dominican Whale Whisperer.
That sounds great. How long will you hold onto the title now?
I will keep the title until a new Whale Whisperer is appointed. That will happen next year, at the beginning of 2021.
What exactly are your duties as a Whale Whisperer?
For the most part, my job is to learn more about the whales and how to protect them in the long term and to pass on this knowledge. This is primarily achieved through presentations in schools and in the Samaná Whale Museum, as well as in interviews. I also accompany whale-watching boats to take photographs and collect data about the whales, such as the time and place of their sightings.
What has changed in recent years in terms of the protecting the whales here?
I don’t feel that anything has radically changed. People are definitely more aware of how to protect whales and why it is important. There are also many more programs now that call on and motivate young people to work toward helping the animals.
How would you describe the relationship between the local people and the whales?
In general, I think the relationship is good.
(Postscript by the author Tim Philippus: During my time here in Samaná, my visits to schools and discussions with the local Nature Conservation Organization CEBSE, I was under the impression that the general population did not yet know enough about the whales and how to protect them. People tend to view waste disposal and the plastic that ends up in the sea differently here. Whales are also occasionally caught in the nets of fishermen who depend on their profession. However, CEBSE and the local Whale Whisperers are doing a lot of educational work in the region, so there is a clear upward trend in terms of whale protection.)
Thanks for your time, Joaquin! We wish you all the best and continued success during your remaining months as the 2020 Dominican Whale Whisperer.