More Dolphins Slaughtered in Taiji
By Rachel Baldwin and Heather Hill
(Our new volunteer Cove Monitor, Rachel Baldwin, has joined our veteran Heather Hill in Taiji. Here they both report on the latest slaughter of dolphins. My thanks to both of them for being there to help us let the world know what is going on in Japan. – Ric O’Barry)
I woke up to a beautiful day. The sunrise was unparallel by any other I’ve seen. Oranges and pinks striped the sky contrasting against a glassy cobalt blue ocean.
The horizon was speckled by banger boats and skiffs that were manned by anywhere from two to five men. I sat nestled in the jagged cliffs listening to the waves crash below me as the boats pulled into the Cove. Even the birds knew what was about to happen. As soon as the boats were pulling in, the noise the birds were making was overwhelming. Eleven boats zoomed over the horizon all at once, all turning right at the same time as if it were a choreographed dance. There had to be something important in the water, something important enough to kill for.
The men had all seen the same pod of dolphins. There was a sort of unspoken communication; they all knew what they had to do. They were murderers dressed as fishermen. They surrounded the dolphins and corralled them, driving them into the killing Cove.
It was an unfair fight: 50-60 men armed with noisy boats against 13 bottlenose dolphins armed with nothing. The men used metal tubes submerged within the ocean to create a wall of noise to move the dolphins to shore. This noise seems like nothing to us, but to a dolphin, whose life is so strongly influenced by the sounds of the ocean, it’s like metal on metal, something anyone would want to avoid, man or fish.
As if this noise torture wasn’t already bad enough, it was now time for the trainers to come look at the dolphins. They were there to pick the few lucky dolphins, if you can even call them that, that would be bought and taken to nearby aquariums. Of the 13 dolphins, only 3 were selected for captivity. The remaining 10 were encircled by skiffs, revving their engines and throwing tarps over the netted areas.
Why would these men be trying so hard to hide something if it wasn’t inherently bad? The men lit a bonfire on the beach, yet another distraction, and an eerie calm came over the Cove. As the skiffs drove away my eyes were drawn to the ten dolphin tails all tied up together under the tarps, but one thing caught my attention: the laughter of the dolphin hunters.
Banger Boats surround and herd a dolphin pod. Photo by Heather Hill.
As we drove past the harbor this morning, we noticed something unusual; beside the banger boats stood a crowd of people, a mixture of police and journalists. The journalists were waiting, just like us, to see if the boats would go out in search of dolphins, and if so, to document the hunt.
The weather proved in favor of the hunters today, and, as I scanned the horizon, I saw my worst reoccurring nightmare – the banger boats were gathering in formation on the horizon. A pod of bottlenose dolphins had been located.
We hiked up Takababe Hill, which overlooks the killing Cove, for the second day in a row to watch it all unfold. Something was different about today though. Amongst the activists and police stood a news crew from Australia’s 9 News. They set up their massive cameras in the few spots to view the Cove and their booms extended well out into the trees to capture the sounds from below. As the hunters were driving the dolphins under the tarps and out of sight to conceal the capture selection and slaughter, the news crew launched a camera-equipped flying drone over the trees and down into the Cove. The police were frantically making phone calls, looking through documents, and insisting that it was not allowed. The fishermen, when they finally noticed the little drone buzzing around, were furious and completely caught off guard by their unwelcomed visitor. The news crew was focused only on their mission of capturing footage, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
A skiff loaded with dead dolphins heads out of the Cove to the slaughterhouse in Taiji Harbor. Photo by Heather Hill.
Media coverage has been widespread since January’s drive hunt of 250 bottlenose dolphins, which sparked US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to tweet her concern about the hunts, stating they are inhumane and that US government opposes this practice.
I have seen my fair share of newspaper reporters at the Cove, but I personally have never seen anything like what I witnessed today. It gave me a renewed sense of hope that this is indeed the turning point. The world is taking notice. We are watching, speaking out against it, and together we will end this.
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 by Heather Hill.
- Happy 47th Birthday Dolphin Project! - April 18, 2017
- BREAKING: Taiji’s Drive Season Over - February 28, 2017
- 2016: What A Year It Was! - December 15, 2016
- Dolphin Sabbatical Project: A Social Experiment for Captive Dolphins - June 17, 2016
- Statement on Morgan by Ric O’Barry - June 9, 2016
- Op Ed: Is it Okay to Go Back to SeaWorld? - March 31, 2016
- Addressing the Confusion about Angel - March 26, 2016
- Exclusive: Message from Ric O’Barry - February 8, 2016
- What Will 2016 Hold For Dolphins? - December 15, 2015
- The Finland Four - November 28, 2015
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$.