A former American television star was found dead off the coast of Japan earlier this week, the apparent victim of drowning. While an exact cause of death for the actor Mitzi will not be released pending the results of an autopsy, officials in Tokyo are angrily denying that the death is anything more than a tragic accident, but the actor's friends and co-stars are not so sure.
Mitzi, who played Flipper on the 1960's television show of the same name, was found entangled in a Japanese registered fishing boat's drag net near the coastal fishing town of Taiji. Word is that the late actor was off the coast of Japan visiting friends and relatives in the area.
Ironically Richard O'Barry, Mitzi's acting coach on the Flipper television show, was actually in Taiji to protest the annual dolphin slaughter that has made that community notorious amongst animal rights activists throughout the world. Without his presence, it is debatable that the Flipper actor would have ever been identified, as the Taiji fisherman are a secretive lot and for good reason. For years, allegations of animal cruelty, unnecessary slaughter and even strange experiments on captive Pilot Whales (a species of dolphin) have plagued the Taiji Whale Museum. For instance, on October 24th of this year, some 25 Risso's Dolphins were killed in just one days 'roundup'. The Japanese Fisheries Agency issues permits to fishing communities to kill literally hundreds of various dolphin species per year; the town of Futo alone is allowed to kill 600 of the intelligent and beautiful animals annually.
While allegations of cold blooded murder, or at least 'man'-slaughter swirled around the Japanese fisheries industry, accolades and expressions of sadness have been pouring in from Hollywood and fans alike. Mr. Gipper, who was Mitzi's stunt double on the show, is said to be inconsolable.
Groups such as the Earth Island Institute in the United States, the Elsa Nature Conservatory in Japan and One Voice in France have been protesting and documenting the capture and slaughter of dolphins for years. Sadly, it seems that the death of one of the world's most famous dolphins may be the thing that might finally spur interest and outrage among the general public. All three organizations maintain websites and much more information on the dolphin hunts and slaughters are available there.