The dolphin hunter’s drive boat fleet have remained on their anchors in Taiji harbour the past three days. Weather conditions have not been ideal with strong winds gusting from the north. Sunday’s skies are a clear watery blue and the windchill factor is high. Taiji town is eerily still and the cove beach car park is deserted as I pass by. After the chaos of the “japarazzi circus” yesterday the cove has a surreal feel to it. That isn’t strange though..each time I pass by I feel the knot in my stomach tightening and my gut churning. I think what makes it even worse is that this is far too beautiful a place to be desecrated by what goes on here.
Out on the waters beyond the net with it’s white buoy markers, movement catches my eye. The surface is broken and churned by numerous fins and the unmistakable blow of dolphins. Being alone with no-one else in sight I’m a little wary of stopping but I want to know what is going on. I pull up, make sure the car is secure and cross the road to the beach. I estimate that there are almost a dozen dolphins turning in confused circles in close proximity to the security net. But what is keeping them there? Their behaviour is far from normal for a pod and there is no net holding them, to cause their erratic circling.
Then it occurs to me why they are there, and tears well up in my eyes. The past week had seen a couple of bloody slaughters at the cove and the dolphins I was watching had presumably returned looking for the missing members. It broke me heart to watch them circle, then run the length of the net barrier. So I stood there and kept them company. And that was all I could do.
What makes this so painful is that I know just what an incredibly intelligent and self-aware creature a dolphin is. In Western Australia, to the north of my home city of Perth is a place called Shark Bay. The resident dolphins of Shark Bay exhibit behaviour not seen elsewhere in the world. They have been observed holding sea sponges in their beaks which they use as soft, protective “gloves” to shield their snouts as they dig around for food on the rough sea floor. Furthermore this skill is then taught to the young pod members by their mothers.
Here in Taiji, with blatant disregard, these dolphin pods are torn apart. And it’s not just the slaughtered that suffer. Tell me again…..who is the most intelligent species here? I really do wonder.