Angel in Captivity—Updated

By Heather Hill
Cove Monitor
Dolphin Project


On January 17th a pod of approximately 250 bottlenose dolphins were driven into the Cove.  Amongst them was a beautiful, extremely rare albino calf.  My dear friend and fellow volunteer Cove Monitor Karla Sanjur was in Taiji, documenting the drive hunt, and immediately noticed this little white dolphin.  She said it “looked like an angel with fins”, and so Ric O’Barry and Karla aptly named this baby ‘Angel’.

After spending a terrified night in the Cove, Angel was forcefully ripped from her mother’s side and, as predicted, was taken to the infamous Taiji Whale Museum.

Angel is a very special little dolphin. Her genetic defect makes her unique, and she has caught the attention of the world, bringing more light to the direct link between the captivity industry and the dolphin slaughter in Taiji.

I have found it extremely difficult to check on Angel because the Taiji Whale Museum has been denying entry to most Westerners.  The first few times, I was told that “Anti-Whalers” were not allowed.  After repeatedly insisting that I was a tourist, their reasoning changed to “No tourists” allowed.  An aquarium that doesn’t allow tourists… Interesting!  After many days of this I was finally allowed inside – however, the only camera I was able to bring was my iPhone. 

Angel shares her small tank with one larger bottlenose dolphin.  During my the time of my observations, Angel swam in a very small circle in the center of the tank, surfacing for a breath every 20 seconds or so, in the same spot during each lap she made.  After a few breaths, it became obvious how predictable and repetitive her actions were.  She did not interact with the other dolphin, although the other dolphin just floated lifelessly on the surface.  Despite their forced close proximity to one another, they acted as though they were unaware of each other’s existence.  Her eyes remain closed or partially closed.


The dolphin “show” began in the neighboring section of the pool.  Music and narration were blasted through a loudspeaker located next to Angel’s tank.  Her behavior did not change.  After the show, a trainer came to feed Angel.  He extended his arm and offered dead fish to her, slapping it on the water.  She took immediate interest.  She was hungry; she wanted the fish, but it was apparent how terrified she was of humans.  She cautiously approached, and each time she grabbed the fish she spun around in a splash and retreated to the center of the tank.


Her evident fear should come as no surprise.  After all, humans are the ones who hunted and chased her family and stole her from her mother.  Of course she’s terrified.



Angel Enslaved in Taiji Whale Museum from Dolphin Project on Vimeo.


Angel was born a wild dolphin, belonging only to her mother, her family pod, and the sea.  That’s the life that she and every other dolphin were meant to live. 



Do not support the captivity industry.  As long as aquariums continue to sell tickets, they will continue to buy dolphins, and pods like Angel’s will be driven into the Cove and either enslaved or slaughtered.  Do not support the continued imprisonment of Angel and countless others who have lost their family and freedom in the Cove.  Be a voice for Angel.  Say no to the dolphin show.

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 and Video of Angel in Taiji Whale Museum by Heather Hill/

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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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