Return to Taiji and Slaughter
By Tia Butt
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute
Note: Hans Peter Roth and Sakura Araki have left Japan for now. They have been replaced in Taiji by our friend and UK Coordinator, Tia Butt, along with Johanne Aa Rosvoli and Kerry O’Brien as Cove Monitors for Save Japan Dolphins. These are some tough ladies! I wish them all my best and hope for their safety and peace of mind amidst the very harsh reality that is Taiji. – Ric O’Barry
Coming back to Taiji was a nervous time as usual, and I am back with fellow Cove Monitors Johanna and Kerry. Waking up this morning, my stomach was turning while I drove to the usual spot where we sit and watch the dolphin hunting boats go out. The sea was calm, the weather was clear, and it did not look like a good day for our beloved ocean friends.
As suspected the banger boats left the harbor one by one, that familiar sad sight that I have seen so many times before. I had a feeling that today might not be a good day for the dolphins, but hoped that I would be wrong.
After a couple of hours of the boats being out, we could see them chasing a pod; these animals were giving a good fight as the boats chased them up and down, and it looked like they lost them a couple of times. Then we would see that sickly sight of the black smoke bellowing out as the boats raced after the dolphin pod. Eventually we could see a clear drive and could see these poor animals being driven towards the harbor and Cove area by some of the bangers while the other boats went after yet another pod. That awful banging of the torture poles and the roaring of the boats were pushing these animals closer and closer as we raced to another viewing point.
We were not sure of what type the dolphins were at first. We moved position again when we realized that they were being driven towards the killing Cove. Takababe Mountain, which rises just above the Cove, has now been re-opened, and, when up there, we could then see that they looked like around eight Risso's dolphins.
I have seen many drives before, with a much larger number of dolphins. There were just eight here, and they were giving the dolphin hunters such a fight! Even a couple of times, they got away only to be chased back down by the bangers, so heartbreaking to see. It took the hunters a while to get the animals finally netted into the Cove area.
The sickly familiar sight of the dolphins being pushed under the tarps to their fate never gets easier to watch, and we could see at least one juvenile within this pod – this was the saddest thing to see. While watching and taking footage, a skiff came out from under the tarps with two men on it with what looked like a body or a couple of bodies underneath more tarps going back to the open ocean. The skiff disappeared, and we suspect that the dolphin hunters had one or possibly two juveniles under the tarps dead or alive, I cannot confirm, but they were taken to the open ocean. Why?
Two other captives were shortly after taken away to the Taiji Harbor pens where they will be trained to a life of captivity. Slaves for entertainment, where the poor Risso’s will be trained in pain to gain money for these people.
The rest were slaughtered.
It’s been a draining first day being back here, but not as draining for the two captives that in the pens now in Taiji Harbor. My thoughts are with them while I write this, and I will check to see them in the morning.
It never gets easier watching these tragedies that happen here. But I am proud to be volunteering for Save Japan Dolphins, and I am hoping for more peaceful days for our ocean friends for the remainder of my time here. I am updating the Save Japan Dolphins Cove Monitors' Facebook page frequently with updates and pictures of events as they happen here, so if you haven't already, please "Like" this page and share.
For the dolphins!
Photo by Tia Butt.