WAZA courted fire after a particularly brutal dolphin drive that took place on Jan. 17, when an estimated 250 plus bottlenose dolphins were driven into Taiji's cove. The brutal selection of more than 50 dolphins for captivity and the slaughter of 40 plus more, catapulted Taiji into the global spotlight.
Condemnation was swift and came from all quarters, including three Japanese conservation groups who placed pressure on WAZA
to take action.
Elsa Nature Conservancy
, Help Animals, and Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation
(PEACE), took WAZA to task over one of its members — the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA). JAZA they said, as member of WAZA, should be forced to comply with the World Aquarium's own Code of Ethics.
In response to the criticism, WAZA yesterday issued this statement:
This hunt is inhumane and leads to the death of many dolphins.
While the Taiji drive fisheries do not involve any WAZA institutional members, the Association is deeply concerned about this practice and is taking all action possible to help stop it.
Contrary to certain media reports, the Taiji Whale Museum is not and never has been a WAZA member. Like other NGOs, neither WAZA nor its institutional members have any authority or jurisdiction over the drives; however, WAZA will continue to be an active and vocal partner in the global effort to end this unacceptable practice. WAZA and its members are deeply committed to the care and welfare of all wildlife globally.
WAZA is a million miles short of full disclosure.
Breaking it down
WAZA clearly lists
JAZA as a member of its organization. JAZA in turn lists more than 60
Japanese aquariums as members of its organization; one of whom, is the Taiji Whale Museum (TWM).
In the recent bottlenose dolphin roundup, a rare albino juvenile dolphin was immediately sent to TWM. The museum sources the majority of the animals it displays directly from the drive hunts. These hunts literally occur on the museum's doorstep.
Further afield, other JAZA member aquariums also display dolphins captured in the drive hunts. Some solely source their animals from drive hunts, others have a mix of both drive hunt dolphins and captive born.
Enoshima Aquarium Marineland in Fujisawa has at least five wild captures from Taiji along with several captive born mammals. There is also one wild caught false killer whale and some Risso's and Pacific white-sided dolphins of unknown origin. Yes, Enoshima is a member of JAZA which is in turn of course, a member of WAZA.
Niigata City Aquarium displays animals that are 100% wild caught. This aquarium too is a member of JAZA which is in turn, a member of WAZA. The same goes for Kamogawa Sea World which displays a mixture of rescued marine mammals, captive births and wild caught animals.
According to Ceta-Base.com
, the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium's dolphins are almost exclusively sourced from Taiji. Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum is yet another Japanese facility that accepts and displays wild-caught animals.
These are just a few sample members of JAZA that fall under the membership of WAZA.
As a result, Dr. Gerald Dick, the Executive Director of WAZA remains at the center of efforts by Japanese conservation groups. These organizations have repeatedly asked Dick to intervene and oust JAZA from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Despite WAZA's statement that the "hunt is inhumane and leads to the death of many dolphins," Dick defended JAZA's membership and cited the hunts as a part of Japanese tradition. This was immediately disputed by Elsa et al, who in turn cited town records proving that "the history of the dolphin drives span not so-called 400 years, but a mere 45."
"If JAZA continues to violate the WAZA Code of Ethics," Elsa concluded, then "JAZA should be disqualified from remaining as a member of the WAZA, and should be expelled."
The US-based cetacean organization Fins and Fluke
, is also supporting Japanese efforts in asking WAZA to act. In an online petition, the group urges Dr. Dick
to strongly consider and promptly act on the concerns aired by Japanese organizations.
The world is screaming for intervention, and while WAZA's official stance sounds promising, their lack of action speaks much more loudly. WAZA boasts:
More than 250 zoos and aquariums are institutional members of WAZA. About 1,300 zoos and aquariums are linked to WAZA through their membership in a regional or national association member of WAZA.
One of those is JAZA.
The worldwide organization also brags:
"More than 700 million visitors pass through the gates of the zoos and aquariums united in the WAZA network each year."
That's a huge influence that WAZA could be exerting on JAZA right now. But it isn't.
"Inaction may be safe, but it builds nothing," said US politician Dave Freudenthal. And WAZA is ineffective unless it chooses to be the leader and bring its full weight to bear on JAZA and their affiliated aquariums.
As an international organization, WAZA possesses the power to act as a significant force for good and shape the beginning of the end for these awful dolphin drives.
The question is, will it?