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article imageOp-Ed: Updated: Bottlenose dolphins still being held in Taiji Cove

By Elizabeth Batt     Dec 15, 2012 in Environment
Taiji - It's been several days since a huge pod of bottlenose dolphins was driven into Taiji's Cove in Japan. Having been raided of their young in one of the worst processes ever witnessed, the remaining dolphins have been days without food.
The dolphin pod was originally driven into the Cove on Dec. 11, one day after the awful slaughter of 55-65 striped dolphins. The estimated 200-300 bottlenose were netted off overnight as activists rallied to get them released. Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians currently on the ground in Taiji issued a call to action for the dolphins, hoping to secure their release.
Divers wrestled away juvenile calves from their mothers.
Divers wrestled away juvenile calves from their mothers.
Courtesy SSCS Cove Guardians
Over the next two days, the scenes revealed by the Cove Guardians via their Livestream, were both heartbreaking and truly unfathomable. Disbelief, outrage and disgust flooded across social media sites as dolphins were herded (several mammals at a time), into the shallows of the cove.
Beneath the tarps, trainers from Dolphin Base, Dolphin Resort and Taiji Whale Museum (all in Taiji), began to handpick the prettiest and youngest dolphins for a life in captivity. With each selection, divers manhandled and wrestled the chosen into slings and took them to holding pens in Taiji harbor.
Calves and juveniles were ripped from their mothers in a devastating display of absolute chaos. Like a never ending dolphin super mall, frantic mammals were pushed from one side of the Cove towards the beach, raided, then released into another area. It was a carousel of sickening proportions.
Roughly six hours into their second day in the Cove, 32 young dolphins had been ripped away from their pod to be trained and sold to the highest bidder. Nicole McLachlan, Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian's Campaign Leader, described what she witnessed in an Australian radio interview (above).
Not all of the dolphins survived the first day selection process. One young calf became trapped in the nets as its mother grew frantic beside it. By the time it was spotted by divers and released, it was struggling to breathe. And despite the mother nudging her baby to the surface to help it take a breath, the calf did not make it.
This dead dolphin calf that drowned after being trapped in the nets  spent two days floating lifeles...
This dead dolphin calf that drowned after being trapped in the nets, spent two days floating lifelessly in the Cove before being collected by a diver.
Courtesy SSCS Cove Guardians
Even after six hours of the dolphin carousel process, fishermen had not processed the entire pod. They were left in the outer regions of the Cove for a second night.
On the third day more trainers entered the Cove alongside the fishermen. With fires burning on the beach to keep them warm and laughter echoing off the rock walls, the selection process began once more. This time the dolphins knew what awaited them, and they churned the waters into a frenzy, distraught and agitated.
Even without food for several days, dehydrated, weakened and stressed, McLachlan described the marine mammals as even more frenetic than they were the day before. The result was utter chaos and mayhem as dolphins threw themselves into nets and collided with boats. Massive injuries were incurred and one more dolphin succumbed to the stress of the capture.
In another instance, a panicked dolphin entangled itself deeply within a net and spent over 20 minutes struggling to breathe. As his movements weakened and the time between him surfacing lengthened, both fishermen and trainers ignored his plight and drove directly over the top of him three times with a skiff boat.
Another 32 juvenile calves were seized from their mothers over several hours. Finally, the selection process was over for the day. The dolphins that remained were those still to be processed and the unwanteds, those not attractive enough, or too old and too big to be trained and sold.
The entire scene plays out again on day two of the selection process.
The entire scene plays out again on day two of the selection process.
Courtesy SSCS Cove Guardians
With the pod depleted, decimated and robbed, activists watched the Livestream and waited to see what would happen to the less desirables. Would they be slaughtered now or set free, a fraction of the family they used to be?
It was neither. The shattered pod would be held for another night in the Cove, mourning the loss of their young as they inched ever nearer to starvation.
Night three, day four. The Cove Guardians reported on their Facebook page:
As a downpour sets in over Taiji, the Bottlenose Dolphins will be left, starved, terrified and without 64 members of their family, inside the Cove for another day. The killers have taken a day off...
Who is responsible?
There are several entities responsible for the continuance of these drives. Unwittingly in some cases, knowing yet ignoring in others. But every time someone purchases a ticket to any marine park it acts as an endorsement for the continuation of this awful process. Every cetacean entertainment park around the world, has animals that have been sourced (either directly or indirectly), from those captured in the wild.
Organizations such as IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainers' Association) and WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums), have members that directly purchase dolphins from Taiji or train dolphins that have been captured in these hunts.
They will tell you that the drives are morally and ethically wrong but still accept members who are directly involved in the sourcing of animals captured in the dolphin drives. IMATA and WAZA members include some top family favorites: SeaWorld (sourced animals directly from Taiji), Disney, Marineland of Canada, Miami Seaquarium; Shedd Aquarium and Six Flags to name just a very few.
Courtesy SSCS Cove Guardians
Meanwhile JAZA, the Japanese Association Zoos and Aquariums, is an umbrella organization for Japanese dolphinariums who source their animals from Taiji. JAZA members have a direct stake in keeping the brutal dolphin hunts alive, yet WAZA welcomes JAZA as an association member.
Before you buy another ticket to a marine park, watch the Cove Guardians' archived Livestream. It includes every dolphin drive captured by the Guardians at the Cove this season. If you love cetaceans, you will abhor what happens to them in Taiji.
These drives continue because of public demand. The 62 dolphins captured in this latest drive are worth over two million dollars for Isana Fisheries Union once trained. These dolphins are raided from the oceans freely, for public entertainment.
As the brutal dolphin selection process continued in the Cove, literally just around the corner from the horrific scenes unfolding, the music for a dolphin show blared loudly. As happy people willingly parted with their cash for a chance to bond with these animals, a few hundred feet away hidden by jagged rocks, dolphins were dying. And for one Cove Guardian, it was just too much.
Cove Guardians along with social media activist group Save Misty the Dolphin, are urging people to contact IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainers' Association) and WAZA (Worldwide Association for Zoos and Aquariums), because of their indirect association with the drives.
Details on how to help the dolphins, are available on the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian website. A petition asking WAZA and IMATA to stop supporting the dolphin slaughter in Taiji is available to sign at
Day number five without food for the dolphins in the Cove, and this inhumane, ugly, vicious process was not yet done with. Surprisingly 62 dolphins wasn't enough. Round three of yet another selection process progressed.
Day six: In total 101 juveniles and young dolphins were taken captive (all of the young of the pod), twenty-two animals were slaughtered and around 80 starving, injured dolphins were finally released.
Cove Guardian Bianca Brouwer, said of the image below:
An emotional sight to say at the least -- the strength and eagerness as they fled from the cove is truly indescribable.
Courtesy SSCS Cove Guardians
SSCS Cove Guardians added on their Facebook page:
After 6 days within the cove, 126 members of their pod taken from them -- 101 for captivity and 25 for human consumption (which includes the 2 juveniles that died during the capture process), the rest of the dolphins swam free ... having sustained serious injuries and terrifying memories that will last a lifetime.
Most of the mothers will swim away without their young .... those dolphins will now entertain humankind until the day they die.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Bottlenose dolphins, taiji dolphin drives, Sea shepherd conservation society, sea shepherd cove guardians, Seaworld
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