An Assault on the Senses

Taiji, Japan, January 8, 2016

Four days. Four drives. Three species.

Risso’s dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and striped dolphins – none but two were spared during a brutal four-day string of drives in Taiji, Japan, between January 4 and 8. Dolphin Project Cove Monitors Natasha Eldred, Maria Nangle and Oxana Fedorova Live Streamed the events as they unfolded. While the dolphins struggled against the banger boats, the visuals and sounds recorded could only be described as a massive assault on the senses.

Dolphin drive, Taiji, Japan

A terrifying sight: banger boats driving a pod of dolphins towards the cove, Taiji, Japan, 1-7-16.
Photo credit: Dolphin Project

The banging on the poles by the hunters reverberated through the camera to my laptop. It was so loud. I can only imagine what the dolphins must have been hearing and experiencing.” ~ Viewer after watching Dolphin Project’s Live Stream

By the time we arrived to the next lookout point, banger boats had already begun formation and splashes were seen in the water. The drive happened so fast and soon thereafter, a pod of Risso’s dolphins was netted within the outer section of the cove.” ~ Dolphin Project Senior Cove Monitor Natasha Eldred

Risso's dolphins last moments before slaughter

Risso’s dolphins last moments before slaughter, Taiji, Japan. 1-8-16.
Photo credit: Dolphin Project

During the drives, the sounds of boat engines are loud and rough, terrifying the dolphins into submission while pushing the pods further into the cove. Waters churn as babies and juveniles attempt to keep up with the adults. Their breathing becomes erratic as they flee from the hunters. Weights attached to ropes are thrown into the water to further frighten and control the dolphins. The chaos is palpable and by the time the dolphins are trapped, their exits to freedom permanently blocked, they are exhausted. Many die during the hunts themselves, their numbers never recorded against the seasonal drive quotas.

Risso's dolphin captive selection, Taiji

Stolen! One of two Risso’s dolphins selected for captivity, Taiji, Japan. 1-8-16.
Photo credit: Dolphin Project

Two family members of Risso’s dolphins were selected for captivity while the rest of the pod was being killed under the tarps. The captives were in the sea pen at the Taiji harbor while dead bodies were being transferred to the butcher shop.” ~ Dolphin Project Senior Cove Monitor Natasha Eldred

Bottlenose dolphin slaughter Taiji

The last bottlenose dolphin before slaughter, Taiji, Japan, 1-7-16.
Photo credit: Dolphin Project

Dolphins who were swimming along, minding their own business, lost their lives today. For what?” ~ Maria Nangle, Dolphin Project Cove Monitor

The “what” is captivity. The “why” is profit. When the practice of keeping dolphins in captivity is no longer lucrative, the practice will end.

Take the pledge to NOT buy a ticket to a dolphin show.

Here in Taiji, the only thing you think about when these drives are happening is to get as much information and footage out there as you can. Social media is very powerful and we have the power to change this.” ~ Oxana Fedorova, Dolphin Project Cove Monitor


Your help in supporting our campaign in Taiji is greatly appreciated and needed. Click here to donate.


Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the USA (Tax ID 47-1665067), and donations are tax-deductible.

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About Cara Sands

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It might be true that we don't recall many moments from our early years. However, Cara's first memory of a dolphin had her begging her parents to ask the trainer to let the dolphin go! The problem with captivity was evident to her, even as a 4 year-old child.

A writer by trade, Cara has researched, investigated and documented dolphins suffering in captivity. From documenting dolphins incarcerated in buildings, cut-off from fresh air, sunlight and normal socialization to researching cases of animals imprisoned in solitary confinement, Cara is a dedicated dolphin welfare advocate.

It is her belief that education equals empowerment. The more information shared, the better our choices and knowledge of how to act as a positive and respectful voice for dolphins across the world.

Cara is based out of Canada and makes time whenever possible to observe dolphins in their natural environments. She is writing her first fiction novel but knowing her, the marine world will play a prominent role in her book!

"The use of animals for entertainment is nothing more than an abuse of dominance. Some of the most sentient species on the planet have been exploited to incomprehensible levels, all due to their inherent benevolence. Ironic, considering that we turn to the abused themselves for displays of humanity."
~ Cara Sands

Author: Cara Sands


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