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Fuji gets starring role in new documentary

Date Posted: 2007-07-20

Fuji wants to replace Flipper as the world's most famous dolphin.

A bottlenose dolphin at Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, Fuji has just made his cinema debut at Seven Plex Theaters in Mihama on July 7th. His story, documentary producers hope, will make Fuji more popular than Flipper, who has reigned for decades as the king of the dolphin world.

Fuji’s life has been complex, and painful too. His very survival is a tribute to perseverance and lots of help from veterinarians and a Japanese tire manufacturer. Five years ago, Fuji became sick and veterinarians had to amputate his tail fin in order to save him. A dolphin without a tail fin is listless, unable to swim or jump, but Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium Chairman Senzo Uchida wasn’t going to give up on Fuji.

“Would a rubber tail fin work with Fuji?” he wondered. “How fast could he swim? How high could he jump? We want to know”, he told veterinarians. The aquarium team’s efforts to save Fuji are the essence of this documentary. They approached tire manufacturer Bridgestone Corp, asking for help. It had never been done before, but factory engineers spent two years pooling resources, experimenting and creating a new tail. By late 2004, they had a tail fin that worked, and everyone held their breath as Fuji began swimming and jumping. “Oh, my! Isn’t this a dream?” asked a team member.

While many think dolphins should only be in the natural ocean setting, others such as Steve Uchina have a positive approach. “If we’re taking dolphins away from the wild, at least I would like to take better care of them. We saved Fuji’s life, and we have to think about the same for other dolphins, too.

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