15 Pilot Whales Slaughtered in the Cove

By Viktoria Kirchhoff
Cove Monitor
Save Japan Dolphins

Friday, October 4, 2013:

All twelve banger boats went out today.  The water is surprisingly calm; we thought a typhoon was supposed to come – but nothing.  Sakura and I drive over to the lookout point at 6:45 AM, when the wind starts to pick up, and the water gets choppy, which gives me hope that the hunters can’t spot any dolphins.

At 9:06 AM, we can see the boats on the horizon, perfectly lined up again in a half moon.  A drive is in progress.  In front of the boats are some whales gasping rapidly for air.  Depending if they have babies, this pod may move very slowly and has then no chance to escape.  Since dolphins and whales are very loyal animals, they would seldom leave a family member behind, so they stay together and wait for their slowest member – even if this means they will sacrifice their lives (unlike humans!).  The boats drive them slowly but steadily towards the Cove with their banger poles in the water.  What a simple instrument to create such an atrocity!

The pilot whales have reached their point of no return.  There is no hope now anymore.

Four banger boats leave to Taiji harbor to exchange their boats for skiff boats, smaller fisherboats with nets so they can close the Cove with netting once the whales are inside.  We rush over to another lookout point, while the remaining eight boats keep the whales in waiting position, a bit offshore, just between the Cove and the harbor, until the skiff boats have prepared the nets in the Cove.  I can see many small dorsal fins on the surface – there are too many babies in this pod, which is why they couldn’t escape!

At 10:07 AM, we run through the tunnel over to the Cove.  The police, cove guards and local observers are already there watching the hunters netting in the estimated 40 pilot whales.

The whales are surrounded by nets, in complete stress and exhausted from the chase.  Now the hunters simply leave – they are done for the day, just ignoring the whales that are caged in, tortured, in fear!  Their cute round heads peak out to breathe, all clustered together, not moving much – what a devastating sight!  I can only imagine what these sensitive animals must go through, complete terror.


Herding pilot whales with skiffs in the Cove in Taiji.  Photo by Sakura Araki.


It’s a terrible, helpless feeling to know what’s happening, and we are just standing here watching and documenting.  But we have to tell the world!  If we stop communicating about it, this will be forgotten, and then there is no hope for the dolphins.  We are their only hope for a future.

Saturday, October 5, 2013:

Today is my last day here in Taiji – I have to catch my train at noon back to Tokyo.  I’m terrified of what I might witness today…

It’s 5:30 AM, after driving by the Cove and seeing that the whales are at the exact same spot as yesterday evening, so we are now at the harbor waiting to see if the killers go over to slaughter them.

At 7.45 AM, the killers have still not left the harbor.  It’s probably too windy and rainy for them.  We make our way back to the Cove.  The poor animals are just waiting on death row now, which can last for days – without any food!  This is just plain animal cruelty now!  Why is this allowed?  They are still huddling close together, terrified, frozen in shock, not able to move.  Millions of thoughts and innovative ideas run through my head about what we could do to free these suffering animals – but I know none are feasible.


Pilot whales behind the numerous nets in the Cove in Taiji.  Photo by Sakura Araki.


The killers are not coming back today.  I’m leaving to catch my train, feeling terrible leaving all these whales behind knowing what is going to happen to them in the next days.  It’s emotionally so draining to witness this, but what is happening is the truth, and I’d rather be here doing a little something to support an end to this one day than sitting at home ignoring the facts.  Looking away and being silent has never been the solution.

Sunday, October 6, 2013:

I’m back in Tokyo to catch my flight to another animal project in Thailand tonight.  Other Cove Monitors inform me that this morning 15 pilot whales were brutally slaughtered for human meat consumption!

After the 20-minute massacre in the Cove, the killers pushed the babies and juveniles – who just witnessed their family members get slaughtered while swimming in their blood – back out to sea, leaving them to their own destiny.  The killers have no interest in the babies and juveniles, because they don’t produce a lot of meat.  Hence, the killers don’t want to “waste” their quota on them.  The babies cannot survive without their mothers, so they will die as well (but these mortalities will not be counted against the Taiji dolphin hunter’s quota!).

It’s another atrocious Red Cove day, another massacre in Taiji has happened and the world just watched.  When will this finally have an end?

There are no words to describe the pain and anger I feel that this cruelty is still legal in this day and age.  Where is the higher consciousness and compassion?  We have a responsibility to fix this, we owe it to the hundreds of thousands of dolphins and whales that have died.  It’s never too late to change – we need to put pressure on all our governments to ban the importing of dolphins and whales for human entertainment!

My deepest respect and gratitude to the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign and all the brave Cove Monitors that come here every season at their own expense and risk.  A special thank you to Sakura who was by my side during my ten days in Taiji and stays here many months to witness and document this cruelty.  Thank you for your passion, strength and belief.  The world needs more of you noble, selfless people.

Never be silent!  And never buy a ticket to a marine park where dolphins or whales are kept – you would be supporting the slaughters in Taiji.


Pilot whales being herded by skiffs in Taiji.  Photo by Sakura Araki.


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About Ric O'Barry

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Ric O’Barry, Dolphin Project Founder & Director has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.

In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.

From that moment on, O’Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.

Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.

O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His book Behind the Dolphin Smile was published in 1989; a second book, To Free A Dolphin was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication. He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.

Author: Ric O'Barry


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