Dolphin Family Huddles Together One Last Time Before Being Slaughtered By Fishermen in Japan
By Jin Hyun
September 16, 2019
A video filmed in Taiji, Japan released by non-profit organization Dolphin Project has captured the heartbreaking and barbaric kick-off to the small Japanese village’s dolphin hunting season.
Taiji’s large-scale dolphin hunting was made famous by the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove” in 2010 and exposed the brutal “drive hunt” techniques used by the hunters where they herd large numbers of dolphins to shore.
“It’s been a tragic start to the dolphin hunting season here in Taiji. The month is not even half over yet and we have seen brutal slaughters and heartbreaking captures take place,” the group wrote in a blog post.
“One of the most difficult scenes to watch unfolded in the waters of the Cove. Yesterday, a nursery pod of pilot whales was ruthlessly hunted for hours and then driven into the shallow waters. Exhausted and traumatized, the family surfaced and spy hopped as they caught their breath.”
Pilot whales, one of the largest species of oceanic dolphins, have displayed intelligence levels equal to those of bottlenose dolphins and are known for being extremely social. Their social nature has been exploited by dolphin hunters who use this to their advantage to drive hunt the pods.
Once the fishermen dropped their nets, the pod was trapped and the dolphins’ fates were sealed. “They swam in a tight circle, always touching one another,” the non-profit group continued.
The matriarch of the group could also be seen swimming around her family, rubbing up against them in an attempt to comfort her group. And just like this, with no food or shelter, the hunters left the pod alone overnight.
When the sun rose, the hunters arrived at the Cove to begin their work on the group of trapped pilot whales as they swam closely together, trying to understand what was about to happen. Eventually, eight pilot whales were taken into a life of captivity, never to roam the ocean again, as the fishermen began the slaughter on the rest of the pilot whales.
“The skiffs began breaking the family apart in order to begin the captive selection. The pilot whales were frantic to get away from the hunters but to also stay together. Their splashing echoed up towards us on the hill as we watched their desperate final attempts at freedom and life.
“Those new captives were left to watch and listen as their family was slaughtered right next to them. It was heartbreaking to witness that and know how emotionally bonded this family was. The captives that were taken to the sea pens in the harbor also had to endure watching their dead family being dragged past them on the way to the butcher house.”
The long, bloody, and excruciatingly loud slaughter process killed the whales off one by one, as the pilot whales thrashed against the water. “In the end it seemed like the pod members that were killed last, also gave the least amount of struggle. The sounds of their thrashing were not as loud as the family members before them and it made us wonder if they had just given into their fate,” The Dolphin Project wrote.
“They had seen their entire family, and their brave and beautiful leader killed right before their eyes. The family members that weren’t killed were forcibly taken away from them, never to be seen again.”
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