You probably don’t think of orcas when you think of Japan. We know that dolphins, tragically, migrate past the coastal town of Taiji every year, to be slaughtered in the most inhumane and unnecessary way imaginable. We also know whales are stolen from the icy Antarctic waters under the bogus pretence of ‘scientific study’.
But the beautiful panda-marked orcas that made SeaWorld famous (for all the wrong reasons), don’t generally come to mind when thinking of Taiji.
Maybe that’s because hunting has devastated the orca population surrounding Japan, and there aren’t many left.
Drive hunts in the 1950s and 60s decimated orca numbers off the coast of Japan to a point where they have never recovered. It took until 1993 for the Japanese government to do anything, when they finally declared orcas a “rare species” only permitted to be captured for “scientific research purposes.”
If this sounds horribly close to the excuse that’s currently being used to justify Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic, that’s because it is. The Japanese government’s justification for issuing permits to capture and kill cetaceans for “science” has always been baseless.
The last orca hunt in Japan was devastatingly cruel. In 1997 watchers spotted the first pod to be seen around Japan in a decade.
A terrified family of ten orcas was driven into the infamous Taiji cove. Five were taken, and five were chased back into open water after they refused to leave without their family members.
One orca was visibly bleeding as the pod was pushed back out to sea, and a calf was reported to be in “very bad condition”. Nothing is known about what happened to the remaining pod.
The five unlucky enough to be captured were sold for $US250,000 each. One of those was a calf separated from its mother, who died soon afterwards.
Within months, another young pregnant female died during a miscarriage, and a young male from the same pod also died soon after. Ten years later, another female died alone in an aquarium, followed the next year by the last female of the group.
All five orcas taken on that fateful day have now died in captivity.
The most tragic part of this story is that the fate of the five orcas chased back out to sea is unknown. Orca families are known to be incredibly close-knit, and centred on a matriarch, usually the oldest living female. The impact to the pod of losing three females would be devastating, and their long-term prospects of survival low.
The good news is that whale and dolphins hunts in Taiji can be brought to an end. We’ve already shown with the recent WAZA petition how people-power can create enormous change. Thanks to the help of AFD supporters earlier this year, Japanese aquariums can no longer buy dolphins from Taiji. This action has cut out half of the market for Taiji dolphins.
Now, we need your help to cut out the other half.