The annual dolphin roundup and slaughter in Taiji, Japan, is followed closely by conservationists and animal rights groups, but widely ignored by the mainstream.
However, making headlines Friday was the rare capture of an albino bottlenose dolphin calf, which was among 250 dolphins that were herded into pens and earmarked for sale to marine parks, killing for human consumption, or eventual release.
The white dolphin, on Saturday morning local time, was the first live animal to be removed from the pod.
The pod was the largest herded into Taiji Cove in years, according to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which monitors the hunts annually via on-site volunteers.
(The hunters and dolphin buyers shun activists and the media, and do not generally conduct interviews regarding the controversial hunts.)
Sea Shepherd, which offered a live webcast of the selection process from a bluff overlooking Taiji Cove, tweeted about the fate of the white calf: “Rare white Bottlenose dolphin was taken completely covered to the Taiji Whale Museum, where it will most likely spend the rest of its life.”
Screamed a headline in the Daily Mail, before the selection process began: “Dolphins including rare albino worth millions await their fate after being rounded up in cove while Japanese fishermen decide whether they live or die.”
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “250 Dolphins Face Slaughter in Japan Today, Including a Rare Albino--You Can Help!”
Sea Shepherd is based in Washington state. The selection process was still ongoing at the time of this post.
The calf was removed in a sling that was dragged through the water alongside a small boat.
Prior to this, it had been clinging closely to its mother in the collection pen.
Before the albino dolphin was removed, Sea Shepherd stated: “If not killed, the albino will most certainly be taken as a novelty for Taiji’s local marine park attractions. In some cultures, it is taboo to capture and otherwise harm albino animals.”
This is true. A case in point was the killing of an albino “spirit moose” by three hunters last October in the Nova Scotia wilderness. It sparked outrage among the aboriginal Mi’kmaq people, who revere such creatures.
Japan’s dolphin hunt occurs sporadically between September and April.
So far in 2014 alone more than 170 dolphins have been killed and 24 were kept for sale to marine parks, Sea Shepherd states.
Some dolphins are sold globally, but many are sold to marine parks within Japan. Representatives of marine parks were present Saturday to pick out dolphins that would be purchased as potential show animals.
Taiji’s annual dolphin hunt was brought to mainstream attention in 2009 with the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove.”
-Note: The selection process was still underway at the time of this post
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