We Are Family: First Pod of Pilot Whales Terrorized in Taiji

Update #1 – November 19, 2015, Taiji, Japan:

I am shocked by the drive we witnessed today of 50 or more pilot whales. I could see them spyhopping at the nets, trying to figure out what was happening. The matriarch was swimming through the pod, checking on everyone, while babies clung to their mothers and big males swam in circles. All family members were tightly bound together for protection and comfort.” ~ Cynthia Fernandez, Senior Dolphin Project Cove Monitor

There is a moment during each and every drive, where we feel a glimmer of hope. Perhaps it’s just a part of the human condition, where we as individuals, as well as collectively, want to believe that the hunters won’t find a pod of dolphins. Today, we were clearly shown that this concept of “hope” isn’t just reserved for humans. The pilot whales themselves, in the midst of their terror and uncertainty, kept comforting one another, perhaps in an effort to instill hope.

The terror began to unfold around 9:00 a.m., local Taiji time, when the boats started to drive a pod of pilot whales into the cove. At one point, we witnessed either two pods being driven in separately, or one pod which had split into two. One large group of dolphins was held just outside the cove while the second drive took place.

Pilot Whales, Taiji, Japan, 11-19-15

What panic looks like. Photo credit: Dolphin Project, Vicki Kiely, Cynthia Fernandez

About 50 pilot whales were finally forced inside the cove, and at that point, we could see a large number of babies and juveniles. The pod swam tightly amongst one another, with tiny heads poking out beside the larger adults. At one point, the matriarch rolled onto her back and swam through the group,  interacting with each youngster, while the large males swam around the periphery of the pod. Everyone was spyhopping and their panic and confusion was palpable.” ~ Vicki Kiely, Senior Dolphin Project Cove Monitor

The ropes were drawn, ensuring escape would be impossible. And then – everyone left. The day was done.

Pilot whales, Taiji Japan, 11-19-15

Babies, juveniles and adults awaiting their fate, Taiji, Japan. Photo credit: Dolphin Project, Vicki Kiely and Cynthia Fernandez

At the time of this first update, the pilot whales are being held overnight in the cove. Lights are on, and signage is up, stating the whales are property of the fisherman. We will be back at 4:30 a.m., local time to document the fate of these sentient creatures. Please check back for updates.

Click here to read part two of this blog: Day Two: Carnage in the Cove.

Click here to read part three of this blog: Taiji Dolphin Brutality Continues.

Click here to read part four of this blog: Pilot Whales Meet Tragic End in Taiji.

Thank you to Dolphin Project Senior Cove Monitors Vicki Kiely and Cynthia Fernandez for their accounts in documenting this latest travesty in Taiji.

Learn more about becoming a 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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