I am sitting here at the cove after what has been the longest day of my life. That’s the second time I’ve said that sentence in a week, and I’ve meant it both times. The days are long here in Taiji. And today was especially so, but it was nowhere near as long and horrible as it has been for the dolphins that now swim in front of me, trapped overnight with no food and with a gruesome day ahead of them tomorrow. They fought for almost six and a half hours, swimming deep for long periods of time, swimming in every direction they could, but after a full day of fighting for their lives, these brave dolphins lost.
The hunters chased three pods of dolphins for hours, and they drove the first pod into the mouth of the Taiji harbor and held them there with three skiffs and one banger boat. The hunters periodically banged their metal pole to keep the pod contained and unable to escape. The second pod miraculously got away, and that left eleven banger boats to drive in the third pod. Our day started at 4am. We went to the harbor, and all twelve boats were heading out to hunt for dolphins. By 8am, we could see the boats in three separate formations, and we separated so that we could document the drive. I stood with fellow Cove Monitors (and friends) at the top of Mount Takababe for over five hours watching and waiting and praying.
Everything is so unpredictable here. These drives can happen very quickly, and they can go slowly too, but Tim Burns, our Cove Monitor Coodinator who has witnessed over forty drives, said that today’s was the longest he had ever experienced.
They appear to be bottlenose dolphins, and because of the Fishermen’s Union’s agreement with WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) not to slaughter bottlenose dolphins in the month of September, hopefully none of this pod will be killed. There will probably be a selection tomorrow morning, and several of these beautiful animals, who were swimming freely this morning, will be chosen to live the rest of their lives in captivity. In this group, there is at least one mom and baby, and babies are very attractive to buyers. I’ve been told that usually during a drive this long, the calves don’t make it. They aren’t able to keep up and because their lungs aren’t fully developed, they can’t breathe as well, and they are often left behind. The calves who do make it are often separated from their mothers during selection and they may nurse with a surrogate mama, but sometimes they don’t, and they are force fed by humans and they most often die.
As horrific as today was for these dolphins, for some of them - those unlucky ones who are selected tomorrow - the worst is yet to come. People don’t realize the cruelty behind their visits to Sea World or other dolphin shows or their dolphin swims while on vacation. And even though parks in the U.S. are not legally allowed to buy dolphins from Taiji, many of the dolphins in those programs can be traced back to Taiji. And not only that, captivity itself, no matter what the source, is horribly inhumane, unhealthy and unnatural for the dolphins. And so even though you may not visit a park whose dolphins came directly from Taiji, the dolphins your child kissed may have been the baby of a mom who was taken in Taiji. And even if there is absolutely no line back to Taiji, as long as people are buying tickets and swimming with dolphins, there is a demand and a market and this will never end.
Tonight once again I am praying for these dolphins and for all of the dolphins who will be captured or slaughtered during this next seven long months. And I pray that humanity wakes up because this is just about the worst example of our greed and blind, arrogant speciesism.
One of my students sent me this quote today: "The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do." ~Sarah Ban Breathnach
I am grateful to have been surrounded by dreamers who do today.
Thank you to everyone who has been so very supportive - my family, friends, students and strangers. Thank you to those of you who have reached out, commented, liked, and loved. It helps.
Photo by VC