Germany's Doris Thomas: Artist and Writer for Cetacean Freedom
Ocean Advocate News would like to introduce you to Doris Thomas. Doris is a German author, artist and activist against whaling and captivity. She has been involved in the cause for more than twenty years, and is addicted to be on/in the water to meet whales and dolphins. Unfortunately this is only possible for her 2-3 weeks each year. During her time away from any ocean, she uses her footage and talents (painting/writing/creativity) to create several things concerning education mostly about marine mammals.
Doris was born 1966. She tells Ocean Advocate News she "has a nice family with husband and two 'more or less' just adult children." She works with in cooperation with several NGOs, but she is not a member of any and chooses to remain independent. She supports them with free entries in her books or offering other ways for free promotion. She is very thankful for forewords written by Richard O'Barry and Dr. Ingid N. Visser (both in Dolphin in Need), and to Dr. Paul Spong and his wife Helena Symonds (in Through the Eyes of the Orcas).
Ocean Advocate News: What got you involved in anti-captivity?
Doris Thomas: In Germany there are still two facilities which keep dolphins, one had belugas as well. I have to admit that I saw my first dolphin in one of these terrible facilities. For my excuse, it was the time before there was internet and before I knew something about the needs of these animals. Nevertheless for me it was obvious from the first impressions that this couldn't be right. In the beginning I tried not just to listen what activists shouted but wanted to build my own opinion. With this argument I was invited to visit the dolphinarium in Nuremburg and even had a one hour interview with the management. I think this was in 2000. Afterwards I was allowed to see the show and look behind the "curtain". Well, it was interesting because some arguments of activists weren't true, and some information of the management was totally wrong. For example there was a guy in the water with the dolphins who usually was working only with the birds of prey. He just helped out in the dolphinarium for 2 or 3 weeks. But the management asserted that only a person is allowed to go into the water who knows the dolphins for years. I think on that day I decided not to swim with the current concerning how to act against captivity, but to search for my own way to inform people about the truth and cruelty behind that business. I chose the way that is independent from any NGO.
OA News: How did you become interested in art and writing?
Thomas: In school I wasn't good in writing and not good in German grammar. My teacher for sure couldn't believe that I am writing books. I already had some talents in doing art in school already, but never appeared anybody like an artist. Instead I learned to write computer programs. So I think I can be a good sample for people who think they can't do this or that. Often talents are hidden and people don't give themselves the time and chance to let them out. I wasn't interested in writing and painting until I fell in love with whales and dolphins.
OA News: What was the inspiration behind the stories in your books?
Around 1992 I found out that there were no good books (just non-fiction books) about whales and dolphins. But I thought nice stories with illustrations which show the beauty of the animals would be much more touching and impressive than non-fiction books. So I sat down and wrote....just 3 days...and Zabu was written. Unfortunately it took me one year to do all the oil paintings to illustrate the story of Zabu, the young orca. In entertaining chapters he meets other species and experiences different typical adventures like the deep diving sperm whale. It took me 10 years to find a publisher but meanwhile part 5 is short before publishing in spring. It will be the very last time Zabu goes on a journey and after the themes pollution, overfishing, whaling, danger of sonar and many more....guess what the main content of the last part will be? Captivity. And there will be a tribute to the white dolphin Angel, caught in Taiji. Be curious.
Zabu was "born" in my head a year before "Free Willy" showed up and because I had no information about S.W. at this time I choose the name "Zabu" accidentally. I never had heard the name Shamu at that time. Today I am sad about that similarity of the names but Zabu is too well known already in Germany to change it.
Alexandra Mortons "Listening to Whales" inspired me to write my novel. I wanted to show the life of the orcas from a very different view but with the knowledge of humans. It ended with two pupils transforming into orcas and exploring a very strange and new world. Everything is based on facts and I did 9 months intensive research before I wrote one single word. A woman wrote to me that she loved orcas before but never felt so close to these animals in her life as when she read my book. I am very happy and feel honored that I was allowed to use an original Indian legend and that Dr. Paul Spong and Helena Symonds wrote a wonderful foreword to my novel.
Well, Dolphin in Need has a special history. In 2011, during my second invitation to the Azores, I had an incredible encounter and only two people on earth have underwater footage of this. A deformed dolphin had been adopted by a group of sperm whales. There were 5 whales, 3 adult females, one juvenile and one baby, and the deformed bottlenose dolphin which has a back like a question mark. Immediately I knew this situation should be a highlight of a story and so I created Dolphin in Need. But before the story find it's happy end in this scene, it is a pure anti captivity story.
During my readings and talks about whales and dolphins at schools I reached some thousands of pupils already. After my visit or after they read one of my books he children did own artwork, they collected signatures against whaling or captivity, they did entire whale exhibitions, they created posters with information about species and showed them to other classes and much more.
One wonderful feedback to Zabu was a letter from a young girl. She wrote,
"Your story made me a whale lover. Now I want to protect whales and dolphins!"
Could there be a better certification of my work?
OA News: Your artwork is beautiful. Do you have a favorite piece? And why is it your favorite? Is your art available for purchase?
Thomas: Thank you for your big compliment. This is very nice. Many artists are better than I, but I try to do my best and when you compare Zabu part 1 to 5 you will establish that I became better from year to year. Meanwhile I have some exercise in water colors as well. Usually my artworks are not available, because they are part of a contract with the publisher of my books. I have to keep them and I am not allowed to sell copies or art prints. One of my favorites is the artwork I did for an auction to raise money for Lolitas release. I used my hand to put Lolita back into the ocean (above). Wouldn't that be wonderful? Unfortunately for some reasons it wasn't part of the auction so I decided to offer some art prints or other things with this motive to select money I can donate. I have received the first revenue already by selling a printed photo on canvas and donated it to Orca Network.
OA News: You have also had the opportunity to view dolphins and whales in the wild too.
Thomas: Right, I am very lucky. Because of my books and my online-presence I was invited by Futurismo Whale Watching to see whales and dolphins at the Azores in 2010. It is easy to fall in love with these islands. They are extremely beautiful and magical and you find 24 different species of whales and dolphins close to shore during the year.
The people who invited me felt the - this sounds like I am full of myself - the special spirit of my person. I spread enthusiasm to other guests on the Islands and I brought this enthusiasm back home and spread it to people who never visited the Azores. And in and on the water special things happened; special encounters, special behaviors of the marine mammals, sometimes like they knew what I am doing.
Because of these things one invitation followed the next one. So I am on the Azores every year and just have to pay my flights and food. (Bela Vista and Aqua Acores joined Futurismo to invite me to the small island Pico)
I use the photos and videos which I am taking and collection very dutiful to show the beauty of free dolphins or to create videos against whaling like "From Whaling to Whale Watching" or against captivity or use them for trailers for my books. Meanwhile I created several anti captivity sketches with painted animals too. You find everything on my Youtube channel.
Even after publishing several books and successful publications my income is terrible small and my work as author/artist wouldn't be possible without the support of my husband. Nobody would work these many hours for this tiny income. It is extremely hard to find a publisher and it is a very long way from the manuscript to a book in the hand. You need a lot of patience and that is none of my main talents.
Sometimes I am very frustrated, especially when hundreds of activists download my special offer for a free e-book version of my anti cap children's book but afterwards they don't take 3 minutes to support my work (and our collective goal) with a customer review.
But for the animals, and because I love what I do and I think my work is important, I continue to create my educating and entertaining books as long as it is possible. Education and create sympathy and awareness is the key, not only for ending captivity!
My current project is a children's book about a young elephant. Another species, hunted almost to extinction.
I try to earn a bit more money with impressive illustrations about pollution, extinction, captivity, fracking, exploitation, protection of nature and more. They are available as stock photos via Alamy.
Never be silent!