The Sadness And Beauty of Taiji

By Leilani Munter

Cove Monitor

DolphinProject.net

I am happy to report another day of peace at the cove.  No blood was shed in these waters today.  In fact, since Sept 7, the day they slaughtered the first pod of Risso’s dolphins – there has been no killing.  They did capture a large pod of bottlenose a few days ago, but they pulled only one dolphin out for captivity and set the rest of the pod free.  But the lack of killing around here is not for a lack of trying – the dolphin hunters have been going out every day except one when the weather would not allow it.  They have been chasing pods each day, but day after day, the pods have either escaped, or they have been unable to locate a pod at all.

I have settled into a routine here.  Every morning my alarm goes off at 4:30am; I brush my teeth, grab a coffee, put my hair in a ponytail and I’m out the door by 4:45am.  I meet the dolphin hunters at the Taiji Harbor at 5am.  I use the word “meet” loosely.  I sit in my rental car in a parking lot across the dock from the Taiji Fishermen’s Union and watch from afar as they have their morning meeting filled with cigarettes before they set out to sea in their boats to search for dolphins.

The police meet me there every day as well.  They know me quite well by now, as I do them.  I even know one particular English-speaking policeman’s shift schedule.  And they know my schedule as well.  That’s when you know you’ve spent some serious time in Taiji.  One of the most amusing moments of this trip was when the police pulled me over for the first time (for not using my blinker) and as they walked away said “Welcome back.”  That’s when you know you are a regular in Taiji!  We are even starting to have deeper conversations with each other, thanks to their good English (I’m working on my Japanese).  A couple of days ago, one of the policemen asked me, “Do you fight for other animals, or just dolphins?”; so when I got back to my hotel, I made this video:

(those of you in Germany, please watch here http://www.vimeo.com/28988830)

The more time I spend here, the more I am in awe of the beauty of this place and the more I can see the potential of what it could be without the horrific dolphin slaughter.  If only they would turn these dolphin-hunting boats into dolphin watching boats – like Izumi Ishii-san did in Futo.  With it’s beautiful shrines, waterfalls, turquoise waters and incredible coast line, the juxtaposition of the horror of what happens here is difficult to grasp.  I tried to capture both the beauty and the sadness of Taiji in this video:

This is my third trip here, and I know it won’t be my last.  During this trip I experienced my first typhoon, which led to a very important lesson for me.  For the first time in my life I had to live without clean water for several days.  Living without access to water was an experience.  I will never forget finding out there was no water in our hotel and going to the grocery store thinking I could buy some and then seeing all the shelves for water completely bare.  Beyond drinking water, there was no water for the shower, sink, or toilet.  It was an important lesson for me, and one I don’t think I could fully understand without having this experience.  I will never take for granted the ability to take a shower, wash my hands or flush a toilet ever again.  You truly appreciate the simple comforts in life.  Yesterday I had my first ice cube in two weeks and I must say, it was a treat.  When the owner of my hotel gave me a small bucket of ice, I felt like she was giving me a bucket of gold.  I now understand water stress in a way in which I never could before.  More than 1.1 billion people who share our planet live in water stress conditions every day.  I was lucky I only had to go through it for a few days.  There is no better way to understand an issue than to live through it yourself.

I was scheduled to return to the USA a few days ago but I have extended my trip.  Something changes in you when you come to Taiji.  It started happening on my first trip here last year.  It’s hard to leave because you begin to feel a responsibility to the dolphins, to make sure their lives (and deaths) are recorded so that the world remembers them and hopefully change will come.

On a more personal note, I am also grateful for my husband, who arrived at our home today from New Zealand after six months away, and because I decided to stay here with the dolphins in Taiji, I wasn’t there to welcome him home.  I’m so glad that he loves the dolphins as much as I do.

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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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