Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 9: Oh man, this place sucks.

Well, for those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you know how the day went.

My day was the worst day ever - the day I've been dreading - the reason I came here at all. I tried to prepare myself, and actually I think I handled it OK all things considered, but the live show was far worse than I could have imagined.

Drive formation, chasing pod of Risso's
The boats went out and quickly became specks on the horizon. Within a short amount of time five of the specks came together and started heading our way. My heart fell out of my chest. I thought I was going to throw up. We grabbed our gear, left our lookout, and headed to the cove and the steps of Takababe. On the way up Rosie pointed out that this tsunami evacuation site was useless, because no one could possibly get to the top quick enough. I think she's right. As we continued to huff and puff our way up, I knew that what I was feeling wasn't even a fraction of what the dolphins were going through. I hate those steps for more than just being steep now. I hate them for what they lead to. As the boats came in I could see small disturbances in the water. It was dolphins, swimming for their lives, straight toward us and the cove. One group managed to get away, but the boats quickly chased after them and got control again. A normally beautiful view had turned into my worst nightmare. Black smoke filled the air. The horrific sound of the banger poles filled my ears. My head was dizzy and my eyes were welling up with tears. I decided then and there that it did no good to cry. How could I document what was happening through blurred vision? No, I would not give myself the luxury of tears. That I could save for a later time; a time the dolphins no longer needed me.

The Risso's porpoise away, fighting hard to escape
The dolphins passed right below us and I saw an escape route for them, but they were too stressed and too frightened to take notice. I could see they were Risso's dolphins, a species I'd never seen until today. Normally it's really exciting when I get to check another dolphin species off my list! Today, not so much.

In no time the boats had driven the dolphins towards the cove and netted it off. Another net was drawn that confined them to the killing cove. They remained in our sight for about 15 minutes. They were still very stressed. Suddenly I realized how much pain my own body was in. Since there are so many barricades, trees, and bushes to block your sight, I was standing on my tip toes and leaning as far over as I could to see them. I ignored my tired muscles. Again, it was nothing compared what the dolphins were about to go through.

A frightened family comforts each other through touch and communication
Two skiffs entered the net and used their motors to scare the dolphins deeper into the cove, where yet another net was drawn. Now the dolphins were under the absurd amount of tarps covering the top of the cove. That was the last time I saw those sweet souls. Within another 15 minutes it was all over. The skiffs were exiting the cove, and the family of about 13 Risso's were all dead. What a waste of life. I can't believe this is a union job.

Tbe proud tradition being hidden from the public. Notice the man pushing the floating body down with his leg?
Three and a half hours and a family of dolphins went from minding their own business, swimming in the open ocean, to being cut up for consumption.

Since Leah is not in Taiji it was my responsibility and honor to write the blog for Save Japan Dolphins. It was difficult to say the least. What do you say when you're one of the last and only people to tell the story of this family? It was the most emotionally draining thing I've ever written, and while I know it won't do them justice, I hope it will do.

Dear Risso's, I love you with all my heart and will remember you forever. I apologize on behalf of humanity for having treated you with such indifference. I hope you are at peace now, swimming in your safe ocean heaven. xoxo


  1. Beautifully written Heather. I will never understand how people can treat another being with such a lack of compassion.

    RIP beautiful Risso's.

  2. Remember that being there and documenting this tragedy will someday bring change. You're giving a voice to these beautiful innocent creatures. Try to focus on the good you're doing and the difference you can make by continuing to keep this from being a secret. Someday (hopefully soon), hearts will soften and the killings will stop.

    We love you and are very proud of you!

  3. This is exactly the kind of cruelty happening in our country with factory farming, and I completely understand how frustrating and emotionally exhausting it can be to fight the battle to bring awareness and light to the heavy situation at hand. I hope that people will begin opening their eyes to this devastating matter in Japan, and perhaps it'll encourage them to look around at the same thing happening in our own country as well. Keep fighting the good fight-I support you and appreciate completely that I have a friend who is willing to stand up to indifference toward animals.