The Juvenile Members of the Pod Remaining after Captive Selection and Slaughter were Left to Fend for Themselves; Some May Die of Starvation or Fall Prey to Predators

The dolphin killers use their skiff motors to frighten and manipulate the pod into shallow water for captive selection The dolphin killers use their skiff motors to frighten and manipulate the pod into shallow water for captive selection
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Taiji’s dolphin hunters attempted to drive the remaining members of a pilot whale pod that was driven into Taiji’s infamous killing cove on September 26 (Japan time) back out to sea on Sunday, but lost sight of the exhausted, stressed whales before they could reach open water. The juvenile pilot whales were abandoned to fend for themselves following the brutal slaughter of most of their family, and may die without the protection of their mothers and pod.

On Friday, Sept. 26, Sea Shepherd’s volunteer Cove Guardians documented and live streamed to the world as a pod of approximately 20-25 short-finned pilot whales was driven into shallow waters by the hunting boats. Once netted into the cove, two young members of the pod were torn from their family and their ocean home to be sold for captivity. The rest of the pilot whales were held for nearly forty-eight hours without food or shelter, being tossed around in the waters of the rocky cove by strong winds and currents.

In the early morning of yesterday, Sunday, Sept. 28, fifteen members of the pod were brutally slaughtered, and their bodies dragged past their surviving family members, toward Taiji’s cetacean butcherhouse. The killers then took a break, and returned to drive the 8-10 juvenile survivors of these traumatic two days back out of the cove. It is likely that they did not want these small pilot whales to count toward their annual quota, as they would not produce much meat to be sold. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians live streamed and documented as the hunters lost sight of the pilot whales, who barely had the energy left to swim. One pilot whale was seen entangled in nets, left without the strength to free itself.

The hunters decided to end any attempts to drive them back out to deeper waters and abandon the vulnerable juvenile pilot whales, who now face a struggle to survive. Without their mothers, they may starve, fall prey to predators or succumb to stress and injuries endured over the past few days. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians will continue to watch for any who may wash ashore in the coming days.

2 Pilot whales were ripped from their family and taken for a life of captivity 2 Pilot whales were ripped from their family and taken for a life of captivity
Photo: Sea Shepherd
This was the first pod of pilot whales caught thus far during the 2014-2015 drive hunt season. Four pods of Risso’s dolphins have been driven into the cove since the season began on September 1, and approximately 37-40 Risso’s have been slaughtered. On September 20, actress Shannen Doherty was on the ground in Taiji, live streaming with Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, as one of these pods faced brutal slaughter and one calf was taken and sold for captivity. Doherty also live streamed from Taiji Whale Museum, where “Shoujo” — a rare albino bottlenose calf captured last year — remains captive in a small tank.

For a staggering six months of each year – from September 1 until March – entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales 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. When a large pod is captured, killers and trainers will work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins or whales (those without visible nicks or scars) for captivity. It is the multi-billion dollar global trade in captive cetaceans that funds the slaughter. The Cove Guardians have repeatedly documented that the captive selection process occurs simultaneously to the slaughter, as those who are not killed for human consumption are sold for captivity, and transported to captive facilities in Taiji or aquariums and marine parks around the world. If there are pod members remaining, they are driven out to sea in a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove. Most are juveniles with little to no chance of survival on their own.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, volunteers who travel from around the world, are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season. They document and live stream 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 returning to Taiji until the slaughter ends. 

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