November 10, 2015, Taiji: It was a long day, a horrible day and one not easily forgotten. Early in the morning, the two Risso’s dolphins caught for captivity were transferred via skiffs and trucks out of the harbour pen, destination unknown. It took an unusually long time before the dolphins were loaded onto the trucks, a foreshadowing of what was to come.
Eleven hunting boats were already out on the open ocean, searching for dolphins to kill or capture for a life of captivity. Around 9:00 a.m. six boats were spotted in what appeared to be a drive formation. The dolphins fought relentlessly and it was difficult to determine which species they were. Slowly it became apparent they were bottlenose dolphins, the ones commonly used in marine park performances.
The dolphins and hunting boats hovered just outside the cove, the boats not pushing them in. Suddenly, the remaining five boats were spotted, chasing another pod! This would be the second drive in one day. For over two hours Dolphin Project Cove Monitors documented both drives, live streaming for much of this time. While the second pod was being harassed and chased, the first pod was surrounded by two banger boats and three skiffs, likely terrifying them to stay in place as they waited for the second pod to be driven in.
Juveniles were seen swimming tightly beside their mother and other pod members, and even from where we stood, their agitation, adrenaline and fear were palpable.” ~ Senior Dolphin Project Cove Monitor Vicki Kiely
During both drives, hunters lost the pods at least three to four times, yet, they were relentless. Their “prey” were bottlenose dolphins, and with Taiji supplying “talent” to aquariums worldwide, there was no way they would be permitted to escape.
Both pods were eventually driven into the cove, and the nets were drawn. Fate sealed.
The terrified animals were left alone as the hunters left for lunch. When they returned, they brought trainers with them for captive selection. Five of the most beautiful, unblemished animals were taken for life in captivity. Three dolphins were dumped back in the sea, presumably one mother and two juveniles. The remaining 8 to 10 dolphins? They were dragged under the tarps and slaughtered, their bodies taken away a short while later.
For over five hours, two pods of wild bottlenose dolphins were harassed, chased, stolen and slaughtered. Three dolphins out of approximately 18-20 were left to fend for themselves, stripped of their family. The five captives will now be trained how “not” to be dolphins, with the rest, likely packaged for consumption.
Thank you to our Senior Dolphin Project Cove Monitors Vicki Kiely and Terran Vincent Baylor for their tireless work in Taiji. Thank you also to our newest Cove Monitor, Julie Watson for her energy and dedication.
Dolphin Project is on the ground throughout the entire killing season. Please consider supporting our work, with a monthly donation, shopping our store for official gear or even volunteering to become part of our team in Taiji. Our donation page offers other opportunities for giving. Thank you.
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the USA (Tax ID 47-1665067), and donations are fully tax-deductible.