By Kirsten Massebeau
A mega pod of dolphins that included a rare albino dolphin calf gained worldwide attention on January 17, 2014 as they were driven into the infamous cove in Taiji, Japan. Using a painful technique called oikomi, once the hunters locate a pod, in this case bottlenose dolphins, they create a semi-circle. They then drop steel pipes with fluted bottoms into the water. Together each boat bangs on the poles with hammers creating a painful wall of sound. On January 17th the bottlenose dolphins in a race for their lives were inevitably pushed into the cove section by section, and netted off for the captive process that would begin the following day.
For four days the dolphins were pushed into the shallows of Hatakejiri Bay. Using the blast of engines and hunters in dive suits, each section of the pod was manhandled, many injured, as they were pushed onto the shore of the killing cove where dolphin trainers, many working for the one of local dolphin brokers the Taiji Whale Museum, a World Association of zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) member, and Dolphin Base another broker, were waiting to inspect the younger dolphins for sale to aquariums, marine parks and dolphinariums worldwide.
The first taken was the rare albino baby who was literally ripped from its mothers side. For four days the mega pod remained in the cove as trainers took the young from their parents marking the unwanted with a white stripe that would later mean slaughter or a drive back out to sea. As the days of captive selection continued the dolphin suffering escalated as the dolphins became weaker, wounded, and more panicked.
The hunters ran over the dolphins again and again as they pushed the dolphins under the tarps using the blades and roar of the outboard motors to manipulate their victims.
Dolphins panicked, and began to lose the will to live as days went by. While the dolphin drives have been an annual event since 1969, and had been exposed most recently in the 2009 release of the documentary The Cove it has continued. This drive though, would draw worldwide attention.
The news of this huge bottlenose round-up coursed through media outlets worldwide sparking global outrage. US Ambassador Carolyn Kennedy came forward expressing deep concern about the Taiji dolphin hunts(source). Yoko Ono came forward publishing a letter to the ISANA “Fisherman’s” Union imploring them to end the hunt (source) While many important people came forward the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) remained silent as the bottlenose dolphins being manhandled and selected for captivity in the cove would be bought, and sold by and to their members.
“In a recent interview Ric O’Barry film star and creator of the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove that exposed the Taiji dolphin capture and slaughter had this to say: “The number of dolphins caught last year for captivity was tremendous: about 250. The season before, only 50 dolphins were captured for captivity”.(Source)
“This claim of ‘Japanese tradition’ is nonsense,” stated Ric O’Barry, Director of Earth Island’s Dolphin Project. “The dolphin drive hunts, according to the town’s own written history, says a couple of drive hunts occurred in 1936 and 1944, but the current series of hunts only began in 1969.”(source)
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