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article imageCaptive pilot whale dies in Taiji as 80-100 more driven into Cove

By Elizabeth Batt     Sep 15, 2012 in Environment
Taiji - An ailing pilot whale captured with her calf in a drive hunt in Taiji several days ago has died. Meanwhile, for the past two days, a large mixed pod of 80-100 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphin await their fate in the Cove.
Activists report that the female pilot whale captured in a drive hunt with her calf last week died yesterday after ailing for days in a Taiji sea pen. The whale and her baby, along with another whale, were taken from their pod and held for captivity last week as their remaining pod members were slaughtered for meat.
Sources on the ground in Taiji had been monitoring the cetacean since her capture. Cove Guardians with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), described how both of the captive whales were sunburned and not eating. "The baby has been spyhopping continuously," they said, "as mother circles around while floating on her side."
Yesterday SSCS reported the "Captive mother pilot whale has died. At sunrise we saw her floating in the pen as her baby continued to spy hop." A short while after, Guardians described how fishermen entered the pen as the calf looked on, wrapped the pilot whale in a tarp and sent her carcass off to be butchered.
Meanwhile, across from the floating sea pens, 80-100 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins spent a second day and night trapped in the Cove. Driven into the inlet on Sept. 13, sources described the pod as one of the largest they had ever seen. Cove Monitors with Save Japan Dolphins (SJD) reported on their Facebook page:
HUGE pod....oh my goodness.
Martyn Stewart, a sound recordist in Taiji to document the hunts, added:
It is quite possibly the largest pod of pilot whales I have seen in 3 years driven into the mouth of the cove, maybe we are looking at 100ish. This is heart wrenching!!
Both SSCS and SJD confirmed the numbers shortly afterwards.
SSCS reported:
Despite extreme weather conditions and low visibility, a large pod of at least 80-90 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins (including babies) was found just south of Taiji today. They were driven for miles until they were finally netted into the cove. This large combined family will be held prisoner tonight while they await their fate around sunrise tomorrow morning. Captivity or slaughter. The greed never ceases here in Taiji.
SJD confirmed:
I'm disgusted to report that after reviewing video and photos taken today, there is anywhere from 90 to even 100 pilot whales being held in the cove right now. I had to recount numerous times to actually wrap my brain around such an alarming number ... I'm speechless.
The large pod, interspersed with bottlenose dolphins, has been held for the past two nights and are expected to be dealt with today. Of the 28 short-finned pilot whales captured last week, all but three of them were slaughtered.
The latest report on Operation Infinite Patience, published yesterday by Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians claim that, "A previous agreement between Taiji and WAZA (World Association of Zoos & Aquariums), states there is not to be killing of bottlenose dolphins during the month of September."
Melissa Sehgal, the Cove Guardian Campaign Leader explained that this allows the dolphins to "be labeled and sold as 'non-slaughter' dolphins."
"This is not tradition," Sehgal said, "this is greed."
Sea Shepherd currently has five Cove Guardians on the ground in Taiji and are asking the public to help save the huge pod of whales expected to be slaughtered today. "I encourage everyone interested in our campaign to get involved," Sehgal said, "there are many ways to help us save dolphins."
Becca Jurczak, a Cove Monitor with Save Japan Dolphins writes that the game has changed in Taiji this year. Jurczak, who is joined by the first Japanese Cove Monitor ever, described how Taiji town is gradually closing down all access points used by the monitors to document the drives:
Our vantage points into the killing Cove are slim to none this year, our parking spots seem to be a daily debate as well.
SJD is also asking the public to volunteer to help the dolphins in Japan.
Stewart, who captured the large pod being driven in on video, said on his Facebook page:
I sincerely believe that outside pressure is essential. We did it with the save the whale campaign and we can do it again. If enough people shout out and do something then they will have to sit up and listen!
Stewart added, "Over 80+ pilot whales are huddled together in the cove, frightened bemused and hungry." The whales, which are expected to be slaughtered later today, need help Stewart says. He's asking the public to call and fax Japanese embassies around the world to ask that the pilot whales be released.
The social media campaign Save Misty the Dolphin has also launched a call to action and is urging caring citizens around the world to fax their Japanese Embassies and ask for the immediate release of these dolphins.
A free fax button which will allow individuals to fax directly from their computers they said, can be found at the link: Just the FAX: A Call to Action for the Dolphins of Taiji.
Activists say that Taiji fishermen are on a relentless campaign this season in the small fishing village on the coast of Japan made famous by the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove. Over the last few days, eyewitness reports tell of hunts taking place with a level of brutality that has left many dolphin advocates stunned and speechless.
As dawn slowly breaks over Taiji, Sea Shepherd tweeted:
Taiji: still dark outside and already busy at the Fishermans Union. Preparing for mass slaughter.
Sehgal believes that the100 dolphins and pilot whales will be slaughtered in the Cove within the next two hours.
Two weeks into the dolphin drive season which runs for six months from September through March, conservative estimates revealed by CetaBase.com show that over 156 dolphins comprising two different species have been driven into Taiji Cove.
Update: 4:30 PM (MST). Melissa Sehgal is reporting that the slaughter began less an hour ago. Sehgal tweeted:
Taiji: this is like a scene of a horror movie except this is real! Whales thrashing, caught in nets and run over by skiffs. Slaughtering 1 by 1.
Sea Shepherd added that many whales were fighting. "Divers in water tying ropes around tails and dragging to shallow water." One desperate whale they said, threw itself onto the rocks to escape. Injured, fishermen tied a rope to its tail and dragged it into the shallows.
Martyn Stewart described the scene as a "massacre." There are "still many pilot whales separated waiting for their death," he said, "engines are thrust into their bodies like circular saws!"
At 4:39 PM, Cove Guardians announced that the thrashing and screams from whales had ceased. Out of 80-100 marine mammals, almost half of the whales had been slaughtered. Hampered by poor weather, the remaining pilot whales along with 5-6 bottlenose dolphins were left for yet another night in the cove. According to Sea Shepherd, the whales were forced to swim in the bloody waters left behind from the killing of their pod mates. They are "alive for now," said SSCS.
Around 80-100 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins were captured in Taiji cove. Two thirds of them  ...
Around 80-100 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins were captured in Taiji cove. Two thirds of them, were slaughtered.
Courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society/Cove Guardians
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