Horror in The Cove as Striped Dolphins Slaughtered

December 18, 2015, Taiji, Japan: When the first of two boats began to make their way back to the harbor, it seemed as if it would be a Blue Cove Day – one where no dolphins were killed or taken for captivity. However, moments after, a formation of seven boats appeared on the horizon, pursuing what seemed to be a huge pod of dolphins.

At one point, a large number of the pod broke free, presumably swimming out to open water. However, many animals remained under the control of the hunters, approximately 45-50, and were quickly driven closer and closer to the cove. The speed at which they were driven in was the first sign that this would be a particularly brutal drive.” ~ Tim Burns, Dolphin Project Cove Boss and Monitor

Dolphin Project’s Live Stream caught the repeated “banging” sounds as hunters hit the poles with hammers, creating an acoustic nightmare for the dolphins. They did their job, frightening and confusing them until they hovered just outside the cove. Even to human ears, the sounds were assaulting to the senses. As the water frothed from the boats revving their engines, jumping and splashing from the terrified animals confirmed their species to be Striped dolphins. At least one youngster was spotted swimming tightly beside an adult, with the entire pod’s fear palpable, even on camera.

Striped dolphins stuck in volcanic rock near entrance to The Cove

Two striped dolphins stuck on volcanic rock near the entrance to The Cove
Photo credit: Tim Burns / Dolphin Project

The horror continued to unfold when several dolphins became stuck on the razor-sharp volcanic rocks at the entrance to the cove. Attempting to escape the surrounding chaos, they become bloodied, some of their injuries severe. Divers entered the water to pull them off, injuring them even further. Then, on the opposite side of the cove, a solitary dolphin thrashed violently, entangled in the nets. Over and over, the water churned as the terrified dolphin began to drown, while fisherman sat in their boat and simply – watched. No effort was made to assist the animal. After several long moments, the dolphins finally freed itself, but was promptly dragged to the killing cove where it met it’s final end.

Striped dolphin entangled in nets

Striped dolphin struggles in nets, Taiji, Japan
Photo credit: Tim Burns / Dolphin Project

Dolphin after dolphin was pushed, pulled and dragged underneath the tarps. Although this area is hidden from the view of the Cove Monitors, the sounds were torturous. Explains Tim Burns:

The sounds will haunt you, the sounds of their tails slapping on the surface of the water while they are being killed. Slap, slap, slap, loud, desperate and violent and then everything goes silent. Eerily silent.”

Slowly, the water began to discolor, becoming a rusty shade of red. And then the sounds ceased. Moments before, the cove was filled with life and wonder. Now there was only death. The final assault came in what sounded like bombs being dropped, as fisherman hauled body after body into awaiting skiffs.

The sheer brutality of these drives is stunning, where violence is commonplace and compassion is entirely absent.

Please help us end this madness – NOW.

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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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