A Wonderful Day in Taiji

By Ruth Williams
Cove Monitor
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project

Today was a wonderful day in Taiji.  The boats went out bright and early as usual.  It was pretty chilly and slight wind.  But still good hunting weather.  We waited for a few hours at one of our look out points.  Our friend Sasha Alazy is an amazing communicator with everyone he comes in contact with.  He gives factual information and has a way of explaining things that make everyone stop and listen.  It was his first time watching the boats go out hunting.

After a few hours the boats were spotted out on the horizon and once again the sick feeling in my stomach came back.  We watched as the hunters struggled back and forth with these dolphins.  The pod was assumed to be Risso’s dolphins, although we could not be sure at this distance.

The pod was chased all the way by the lighthouse.  At this point, we almost lost all hope for them, because normally this is the point of no return.  But as soon as our hope started fading, an amazing thing happened.  We saw the hunters loose the pod!

But then the hunters quickly found them.  It was a cat and mouse chase.  The hunters were just watching and waiting for the dolphins to emerge.  But to our complete surprise, the dolphins disappeared one final time, and we saw the boats finally turn around and head back to harbor! I could not believe my eyes. Such an amazing feeling!

This was a wonderful victory for all of us, especially for the dolphins.  They may never know how close they were to certain death.

After the hunt was over I rushed Sasha to the train station to met with Hans Peter Roth, as they had a train to catch.  They have left Taiji victoriously!  I will miss them both.

As I returned to Taiji, I went and watched the Risso’s dolphins that were captured the other day while the rest of their family was murdered.  They are not doing well at all.  They huddle together in the middle of their sea pen just bobbing up and down in the water (spy hopping).  I was told they are not eating and that they are completely miserable.  My heart aches for them.

I had to do one last stop before retreating to my hotel and that was to Dolphin Base where captive dolphins are held in sea pens and small tanks (smaller than swimming pools) so people can swim with them.  They are also trained to do tricks for dead fish.

The police today were quit nervous about me being there because there was about 30 high school student from Osaka that was there to swim with the dolphins for “educational purposes”.  I was told to not take any pictures by the police.  So I watched these poor dolphins do ridiculous tricks for these students.  They had to take them one by one around the sea pen while the students held on to their backs – I felt so sorry for dolphins.  I also felt bad for the students.  This is not education!

I headed back to the hotel after watching them for a while.  But on my way I felt like I had accomplished nothing, and I realized I had Japanese version of The Cove DVDs.   So I turned around, and, right as I walked up, the students were walking out of the Dolphin Base already changed back into their street clothes.  Police were not around, and I walked up to the students and started handing out the DVDs.  At first they would not take them, but then one person accepted my hand out and the rest followed.

Perfect timing and another victory for the day!

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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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