Blog | Irresponsible: Letter from Taiji Whale Museum

Irresponsible: Letter from Taiji Whale Museum

February 22, 2012 by Ric O'Barry, Earth Island Institute

By Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Dolphin Project
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

Our friend Len Varley wrote a letter to the Taiji Whale Museum about our Campaign to move Sad and Lonely out of the World’s Smallest Dolphin Tank and into bigger waters at the Museum (assuming the Museum would never agree to releasing Sad and Lonely back into the wild where they belong).  Len is the author of Salt Water Tears: An Eyewitness Account of the Dolphin Drive Hunt Slaughters of Taiji, Japan, a book about his experiences in Taiji monitoring the Cove.  And he got an answer from the Taiji Whale Museum.

Unbelievably irresponsible is the best words I can come up with (without dipping into a litany of stronger words that I learned 50 years ago in the Navy).  I’ve posted the full text of this letter below.  (Please excuse the badly phrased English; in some places it can be very confusing.)   You be the judge:

January 26, 2012

Dear Mr. Len Varley,

Thank you for your concern.  Here is our official answer that we sent out to WAZA and others.  I hope it can help you.

1. The tiny tank in which the live dolphins are kept on display seems to be in violation of the WAZA Code of Ethics.  (Even though the same dolphins do not stay in the tank for very long, before they are processed and sold as meat.)

The tank you mentioned is the one for two individuals of Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuate).
The tank size is 7m x 4m x 1.7m (L x W x H).  Additionally we have 10m2 with 0.3m depth, and total volume is about 50 m3.

We have kept Pantropical Spotted Dolphin for 3 years and 4 months.  The husbandry of this species is difficult and we are the only one institution that hold this species among JAZA members.  At first their body length was 1.7m, and they grow to 1.9m in captivity.  By our training, we can measure their body temperature every day and blood sampling regularly.  The husbandry care runs smoothly.  We can see them swim very quickly and jump in the tank.  If we evaluate that this tank is not suitable for them by observation and examination, we will move them to other facility immediately, but in current situation we don’t think it is needed.
Our goal for this species is the long term husbandry in captivity and they will never be edible.

This is not only for this species, but also other every individual in our facility will never be edible.

2. In the outside tanks, the dolphins have no protection against the at times very strong sun.
We don’t recognize that we need the shade for keeping dolphins in captivity.

3. Although hygiene is of course very important for the dolphins, the chlorine concentration in the tanks is unusually high and can be smelled strongly by the visitors.  As a consequence, the dolphins mainly have their eyes closed.

We use chlorine for sterilization.  The concentration is 0.2 - 0.4 ppm.  We also use chlorine at the stage and the passage for keeper.  The smell of chlorine can be felt with the low concentration and we sometimes use the higher concentration landlubberly, and this might be smelled.

It is not true the dolphins have closed their eyes in consequence of chlorine.

4. Finally, the proximity of where the dolphins are harvested to the whale museum seems problematic, because one of the museum's main goals is to the teach the public about these animals, so that they can be preserved.

Taiji is the town that has lived together with dolphin, and it has long history.  The way to treat dolphin has been varied according to times, but our relationships with dolphin is deeply ingrained.
Our museum is one of the very few institutions that visitors can learn about dolphin from its fishing history to living animals with all kinds of view.  The animal for husbandry and the animal for food are seemed as contradictory aspects, we never turn our back on both side and introduce both of them.  We do our best to keep animals in our facility as long as possible with our greatest love, all possible effort and the best care technique. And we will bring forward the unique exhibits that Taiji can have. We are proud of our facility that is located in Taiji.

Sincerely yours,

Katsuki Hayashi

*          *          *          *
Mr. Hayashi and the Taiji Whale Museum have had their say.  I asked our volunteer Cove Monitor, Tim Burns, to go by the Museum and see if Sad and Lonely were still in this terrible tank.  Here is one of his photos from this weekend:

You can help shut down the smallest dolphin tank in the world!

The Taiji Whale Museum is a member of the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA).  JAZA in turn is a member organization of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).  WAZA maintains ethical standards for their associated zoos and aquariums all around the world.  WAZA is based in Switzerland.

Call or e-mail them NOW!

Dr Jörg Junhold, WAZA President

Gerald Dick, PhD 
Executive Director

WAZA Executive Office

IUCN Conservation Centre

Rue Mauverney 28
, Switzerland

Phone +41 (0)22 999 07 90
Fax +41 (0)22 999 07 91

Ask WAZA’s President and Executive Director to:

(1) Demand that the Taiji Whale Museum release the two dolphins (Sad and Lonely) back into the wild and close down the smallest dolphin tank in the world permanently.

(2) Ensure that, at a minimum, the Museum moves Sad and Lonely to the bigger sea pens and close down their small tank permanently.

(3) If Taiji Whale Museum refuses to take action, WAZA should expel them along with any other aquariums violating WAZA's stated opposition to the dolphin drive hunts and their code of ethics for captive cetaceans.

Sign the peition!

The petition has exceeded 23,000 signatures and rising.  Sign it today, and tell your friends!

The Taiji Whale Museum does not need to keep Sad and Lonely in this tank, nor should WAZA be certifying aquariums that grossly violated WAZA’s stated opposition to the Taiji dolphin drive hunts and their ethical standards for dolphin tanks.

WAZA should shut down the smallest dolphin tank in the world!  It is about time they show that they are being responsible for the animals that they keep.

Please spread the word to your friends and family.  Thank you for your efforts on behalf of Sad and Lonely!


Photography by Tim Burns.


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Irresponsible: Letter from Taiji Whale Museum