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Captured Dolphin in Distress at Dolphin Base – Taiji, Japan

By: Laurice Dee, Ph.D.

31 December 2010

Taiji, a small seaside town in Japan, is known for its annual dolphin drive hunts.  So many lives of varying dolphin species have been taken through the most brutal slaughters.  While their pod-mates are killed, a number of dolphins have been captured for the captivity industry.  The lives of these captured dolphins are forever altered.  They no longer live in freedom in the open sea, nor do they get to do the things that they would normally do through the use of their echolocation.  Their wild spirits have been broken through training for their dead-fish rewards.  In other words, the trainers in Taiji make the dolphins perform tricks in their temporary sea pens at Dolphin Base so that they could be fed dead, medicated fish.  This is definitely a far cry from what wild dolphins do in the ocean – hunting for live fish for their own sustenance.

Speaking of ‘far cry’, one bottle-nose dolphin had been removed from one of the sea pens where he had been occupied by the other captured dolphins to one of the above-ground pools.  People that serve as eyewitnesses to the slaughters reported through Facebook that this particular dolphin has been left all alone without anyone present at the pool.  Through the videos, he has been shown to be quite listless, and he has not been moving around that much.  He has been holding a yellow buoy the entire time and would move to and fro in front of the video camera.  He has moored himself close to the wall within the same section of the pool without changing positions throughout the entire pool.

The water quality in that pool is extremely poor – quite algae-laden and so full of excreta from the dolphin himself.  From one of the eyewitnesses, the pool appears to be unfiltered.  Since there are so many dead fish lying on the bottom of the pool, it appears that the dolphin has not been eating when being fed by those at Dolphin Base.

One of the eyewitnesses that has taken videos of the isolated dolphin tried to interview some people at Dolphin Base to find out more about the dolphin and why he had been separated from the others.  The interviewer ended up getting ignored by everyone.  I understand that his questions had been answered at a later time.  While his questions were answered, he learned that the dolphin’s name was Misty.  The reason why this dolphin had been removed from his sea pen was because he had been ill, and the trainers did not want the other dolphins to be affected by Misty’s illness.  He was also told that Misty was undergoing rehabilitation and that’s the reason for the isolation.

Out of my deep concern for Misty, I could not help but sensed something quite fishy about the answers.  Since my mind was filled with questions, I decided to write to Dolphin Base.  I sent two e-mails but never heard back from anyone.  I knew Misty truly needs a lot more help and attention than what he’s been getting now.  To help you to get a good feel for what I had written, I will post the contents from my two e-mails here.

From my first e-mail on 30 December 2010:

I am writing to express my extreme concern about one of the dolphins that reside at your resort.  This particular dolphin is all alone in a very small unfiltered, above-ground pool without its pod-mates.

This issue has been brought to the attention of so many of us through a video that’s shown through the Internet.  I am so downright appalled at the condition of this particular dolphin!  I could tell right away from its behavior that the dolphin is under extreme stress and that it has been pleading for help.  No one seems to attend to the needs of the dolphin.  The water looks extremely filthy, and the pool is littered with so many dead fish, as well as excrement from the dolphin itself.  The dolphin looks extremely listless with some yellow ball in its mouth and was swinging to and fro while facing the person that took the video.  The dolphin even looked up at the person, even with the ball in its mouth!

I would very much like to ask why this dolphin has been left in that pool all by itself and why the water has not been cleaned and filtered.  I would also like to ask why no one listened to the person (that took the video) who had been trying to find out about the dolphin.  The dolphin has been holding a yellow ball in its mouth.  Did somebody put it in there?  Why didn’t anybody pick up the dead fish from the bottom of the pool?  How come the dolphin is not with the others that are in the sea pens?

I am sure you guys are aware that wild dolphins are extremely intelligent, highly sociable, and quite sentient.  They are capable of experiencing emotions and are so very self aware.  Because of their complete awareness, they know what’s going on around them and the stresses that are being imposed on them.  They are extremely sensitive to extreme noises, sudden changes to their environment, and excessive touching and manhandling from humans.

I would very much like to point out that removing wild dolphins from their oceanic home is so downright unacceptable! Capturing them and displaying them in tiny pens and pool will no longer be tolerated!  The lone dolphin experiencing excessive stress from being in that tiny pool all by itself is a telltale sign of the capture not being quite right!

I am sorry to say this but you are not going to gain anything from keeping wild dolphins in tiny pens and pools. They are NOT meant to live in captivity; they are MEANT to live in the open seas!  Wild dolphins captured for display do not live as long as the ones that remain in the open seas.  I can see from the high turnover of captured dolphins that the dolphins at your resort have succumbed to their untimely deaths.  Their listlessness and lethargic state are perfect indicators of their lives nearing the end.  This is exactly what we have observed of the dolphin in the tiny pool.  This one will not live that long.

How about establishing a new whale- and dolphin-watching business instead of keeping captured dolphins in tiny pens and pools? Your resort is going to reap huge dividends from running this kind of business instead of keeping captured dolphins that have already shown a great deal of suffering.  Guests that stay at your resort will get to enjoy watching wild cetaceans – whales, dolphins, and porpoises – going about their lives in their oceanic home.  Guests will also get to enjoy observing wild cetaceans at work and play!  I guarantee you that the wild cetaceans will show the guests how much they love being at home by doing so many different things – hunting, eating, playing, mating, communicating, and swimming – which are quite essential to their lives.

After all, home is where all wild cetaceans belong!

From my second e-mail on 31 December 2010:

I sent you an e-mail yesterday about one of the dolphins that resides at your resort.  Since I have not heard back from you, I am enclosing a copy just in case you did not receive it.  Please scroll down to see my previous e-mail.

The dolphin that I am speaking of has been isolated in a small pool without the company of other dolphins.  I understand that her name is Misty.

I had the opportunity to watch another video of Misty.  I must let you know how extremely disturbed I am to note the state she is in.  She continues to be extremely listless with the yellow ball still in her mouth.  She has not been moving much at all.

I understand from some reports that Misty is being rehabilitated since she’s been ill and that she needs to be isolated from the others by remaining in the small pool.

I am still gravely concerned about Misty’s current condition and the state she is in. A number of questions have been floating through my mind, and I would like to write them down here.

How come the water in the pool is still so filthy?  How come Misty continues to hold on to the yellow ball?  How come the dead fish had not been removed from the bottom of the pool?  If Misty is being rehabilitated, how come no one attends to Misty and stays with her at all times?  How come Misty has not received any simulation whatsoever, such as enrichment toys or someone in the pool to lead her around?

When a sick dolphin is being rehabilitated, it is given all the care and attention possible in a very clean, sanitized rehabilitation pool.  There is always someone there with the dolphin (in the water if the dolphin is not able to swim well on its own) or outside of the water (right by the pool where the dolphin is being observed at all times).  I do not see anything like this with Misty.  It is very obvious that she is under extreme physical and psychological stress (from the capture, as well as being abandoned) and that her behavior exhibits just that.  It is also very obvious that Misty may not be eating at all since there are so many dead fish lying on the bottom of the pool.

If Misty is being rehabilitated, how come she has not received the proper kind of help that she truly needs?

If you are going to take care of Misty during her rehabilitation stint, she is going to have to receive a lot more help than she’s been getting this time. If you really want Misty to heal, she should be examined by a veterinarian and be provided proper medical and nutritional treatments.

My hope is that you will take my message, as well as that of others, into extremely serious consideration and provide the utmost care and attention to Misty, as well as to the other captured dolphins who are not currently undergoing rehabilitation.

(Since my last e-mail to Dolphin Base, I learned that Misty is a he and that the yellow ball that he has been holding in his mouth is actually a yellow buoy.)

Why I still have not heard back from Dolphin Base, I really don’t know.  But my hope is that this will reach people that would care enough to take action on behalf of Misty just like many of us do.  I would also hope that this will reach someone involved with Dolphin Base and that he/she will ensure Misty’s well-being by transferring him out of the pool into one of the sea pens and having the appropriate people attend to Misty’s needs during his rehabilitation.  I, myself, will continue to follow up on Misty’s condition through updates, as well as my communications with people through Facebook.  I will also work on firing off letters on Misty’s behalf.

Wild dolphins are extremely intelligent, highly sociable, and quite sentient.  They are very self-aware and are also aware of what’s going on around them.  They are capable of experiencing emotions, as well as pain and suffering.  Because of these unique characteristics, Misty should NOT be left alone in that filthy pool and should be in the same area with his own kind instead!

Laurice Dee, Ph.D.

Mesa, AZ  USA

E-mail: launchspace@msn.com

Links:

http://www.vincentkneefel.nl/taiji-day-2-the-tradegy-of-ocean-icons/

http://www.seashepherd.org/dolphins/report-from-taiji-december-30.html

http://www.seashepherd.org/dolphins/report-from-taiji-december-31.html

Regarding Dolphin Base:

“Dolphin Base” in Taiji advertises Touch – a – Dolphin programs and, at the same time, fuels the slaughter of dolphins in Japan: Dolphin Base is the company that brokers dolphins from the dolphin drives to dolphinariums in Japan and abroad.

Link: http://www.dolphinproject.org/?pageid=27547