Taiji Striped Dolphin Family Devastated
By Terran Baylor
(NOTE: One of our most stalwart and tech-savvy (as well as generous) volunteers has been Terran Baylor. He is back in Taiji again, having joined me back in September on the beach in Taiji. Terran is an outstanding photographer and has helped us setting up online streaming from the Cove as well as helping Japanese activists coming to Taiji. In addition to his time, he is a generous donor. He is back in Taiji with Suzette Ackermann (aka Suzette Mermaid) and Nic Rouge, both from Hong Kong, as a Cove Monitor. Here is his report on yesterday’s dolphin slaughter. – Ric O’Barry)
What? One of the hunters is helping a dolphin go over the net? At the time I just thought maybe they had killed enough for the day and were done – just let that one go for now… But, knowing they let the other half of the pod free – was this an act of kindness? My heart want’s to believe this, but I just cannot believe these hunters have sentiments for these beings. We can always hope!
On Feb. 20th, we could see on the horizon several boats in a line, but not exactly looking like a formation – and they were moving fairly steadily (no black smoke indicating a revving for their diesel engines). Hopes faded as their formation turned into a typical drive.
The dolphin pod was difficult to “motivate” into the cove after getting them into the harbor. A splinter set of the pod disappeared and appeared behind the boats and towards open seas. Wishing they wouldn’t be seen quickly faded, as the boats turned about to frighten them back with their family – with the deafening clanking of those metal poles the hunters pound on to block the dolphins.
Striped dolphins always seem to put up a fight for survival, more so than other species. Scenes of striped dolphins jumping on to rocks only to impale themselves were really graphic in The Cove. So many barriers have been added in this cove to prevent such displays of their fight for survival – all to prevent more footage being shared. Only the hunters know how much they fight under the tarps – but WE CAN HEAR THEM FIGHTING!
After the pod was split – roughly in half – three dolphins were witnessed getting caught in the nets, and after being pushed out by the hunters, they joined the group destined for slaughter. One dolphin escaped over the net separating the two groups – swimming hard and fast away to join the “lucky” ones. A single dolphin caught in the net seemed to be running away from what was happening under the tarps, and one of the hunters pulled him/her loose and by the rostrum pushed the dolphin over the net – joining the group that would later be set free.
I could see the Cove turn blood red between the tarps. Windy conditions made the tarps bellow and separate, to reveal some of the tragic deaths occurring beneath them. As fewer dolphins were seen, the ocean turned even bloodier. Two skiffs left with the dead souls; some were chucked onto the skiff as we heard the loud thumps, while others were dragged alongside with ropes tied to their tails.
Apparently the hunters took a lunch break and then returned to release the “lucky” ones. Having their family decimated in half, this pod has endured the wrath of some callous human beings.
Estimated between 40-50 striped dolphins were herded into the Cove, and 24-27 were slaughtered on this day.
There is no question scientifically that dolphins are sentient beings – having a brain equivalent to the human species in intelligence. We must continue to move forward in considering them as “non-human persons” with basic rights to life, liberty, and freedom from harassment, so they may gain some rights for survival.
Contact the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to urge them to be responsible and take action against their members that source dolphins from Taiji and other wild dolphin capture sites (like Russia and Cuba).
Photos by Nic Rouge and Terran Baylor/DolphinProject.com