The Terrified Bottlenose Trapped in the Cove Endured Crowds of Festival-Goers Before Facing Captive Selection and Slaughter the Next Day; the Bottlenose Slaughter Was Immediately Followed the Next Day by the Capture and Slaughter of a Family of Risso’s Dolphins
On Sunday, November 2 (Japan time), the first bottlenose dolphin pod of the hunt season was driven into Taiji’s infamous killing cove. The hunting boats generally leave port by no later than 6:30 am, and by 7:30 that morning, there were no signs of the fleet’s departure. However, even during the celebration of the Taiji Whale Festival — usually a day without hunting — the greed of Taiji’s dolphin killers knew no limits, and the killers drove a pod into the cove late that morning as festival-goers looked on. Even the highly sought-after bottlenose were not enough to even temporarily satisfy the killers as they soon followed up the bottlenose capture and kill with the capture and slaughter of a family of Risso’s dolphins on Tuesday, November 4 (Japan time).
A celebration of whalers and their catch — not whales — the Whale Festival placed Taiji’s hypocrisy on full display for all to see, as a nightmare for the bottlenose played out in the cove.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Cove Guardians documented and live streamed to the world as the pod was driven toward Taiji Harbor. The sounds of music and celebration from the festival could be heard as the panicked dolphins were netted into the cove. As it became clear that this was a pod of 20-25 bottlenose dolphins, the Cove Guardians knew that there would likely be a captive selection process and that these dolphins may be forced to spend hours in the cove awaiting their inescapable fate of captivity or slaughter.
Bottlenose dolphins are highly sought-after for the captive trade, as they are in high demand by aquariums and marine parks around the world. They represent a large payday for both the dolphin hunters and trainers in Taiji, who work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins — those without visible nicks or scars — for captivity in one of Taiji’s three captive facilities or at other marine parks around the world. It is the global demand for captive dolphins and whales that fuels the slaughter in Taiji.
The dolphins were held overnight without food or shelter, but not before being forced to endure the stares of crowds of festival-goers who were brought into the cove on the hunting boats to see the frightened dolphins, who had already suffered through the long and stressful drive into the cove.
“Not only were the members of this dolphin family torn from each other’s sides to be sold into captive slavery or slaughtered for human consumption, but these terrified animals were surrounded by gawking onlookers, joy-riding in the very boats that drove this pod into the cove,” said Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian Leader on the Ground, Dave Hance. “These heartless killers show no respect or compassion for the wild dolphins and whales who are swimming free until they make the mistake of swimming past Taiji’s deadly shores.”
The captive selection and slaughter took place Monday morning, November 3 (Japan time), after the dolphins were held for nearly 20 hours in the cove. Of the 20-25 dolphins, approximately 11 were slaughtered with a metal spike to their spinal cord and five were taken into captivity. The new captives — who had just witnessed the brutal killing of their family — were transferred via skiff for a life of imprisonment as the bodies of the slaughtered dolphins were transferred to the butcherhouse for processing.
The remaining four members of the pod — juveniles and babies — were taken back out to sea and dumped there, left to fend for themselves. The vulnerable young dolphins driven back to sea following Taiji’s brutal hunts have little to no chance of survival without the protection of their mothers and pod, and may die of starvation or fall prey to predators.
Even as the pod of bottlenose dolphins faced captive selection and slaughter in the cove, hunting boats were out at sea in search of more dolphins or small whales, proving once gain that the greed and violence never stop in Taiji. The hunters were unable to locate another pod, and returned empty-handed.
However, the waters of the cove soon ran red once again, as the decimation of this beautiful bottlenose dolphin family was quickly followed by another slaughter. The following day, Tuesday November 4 (Japan time), a pod of approximately 20 Risso’s dolphins was driven into the cove and met their demise. 17 Risso’s were quickly slaughtered, and 3 juveniles were driven back out to sea — left to fend for themselves after enduring the trauma and stress of the hunt that claimed their mothers’ lives.
This was the tenth Risso’s pod driven into the cove since the beginning of the hunt season in September, and Risso’s represent the majority of the slaughters that have taken place thus far. According to the Cove Guardians, approximately 111 cetaceans have been killed — 85 Risso’s dolphins, 11 bottlenose dolphins and 15 pilot whales.
For a staggering six months of each year – from September until March – entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales at a time are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. The Cove Guardians have repeatedly documented that the captive selection process occurs simultaneously to the slaughter. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.
Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.
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