A killing machine

Tuesday dawned to cloudless skies and light winds. It meant good conditions off-shore for the dolphin hunters and my uneasy feeling was confirmed as I passed by Taiji harbour. The drive boats, normally sitting in a long line around the harbour were absent from their berths. From the high point overlooking the harbour mouth, the ten drive boats could be seen describing lazy circles not far off-shore. The slow turns, with some boats stationary, told me that no pods had been sighted yet, and I prayed a silent prayer for their return empty handed.

The pod is driven towards the cove

When striped dolphins travel they tend to leap acrobatically and will somersault when riding ships bow waves. I love them for their exuberance and free spirit and sadly I could only feel spite for the men that took it upon themselves to take that freedom away from such majestic creatures. It is the striped dolphin that appears in the frescoes of ancient Greece, where they were held in such high regard that it was illegal to do them harm.
As the pod was shepherded towards the cove I bit back tears for the umpteenth time this week. Unlike bottlenose dolphins, this species does not “take” to being trained in captivity and nor are they comfortable so close to land, so there could only be one grim outcome for the pod. I resigned myself to standing vigil and being there for them.
By the time I reached the cove the escort boats were in the bay and the net was played out to seal the exit to sea.
With 14-15 police and coast guard officials observing I paced across to the beach.

Holding net is put into place

A skiff removes the bodies under tarps

It is not my intention to labour the point on specifics here. There were no trainers to select specimens. There were approximately forty dolphins coralled into the cove – none were spared. There were several juveniles amongst the pod. The despatch took longer than usual, mainly because striped dolphins will resist and fight.

I’m thinking of the word “trainer”. We are presumptious beings that we think we have something to teach these dolphins. Do we stop to consider that maybe we have something to learn from them?

Here is what I will take away from today’s events – the striped dolphin teaches me to rejoice in freedom and to have the courage to fight for what is important.

For the dolphins.

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