Japan is facing ongoing international disapproval for its annual Taiji dolphin drive, which continues to take a variety of dolphin species from the wild. The wild dolphins collected during the drive are killed for the meat industry or sold to captive entertainment facilities.
Most recently, it is the story of a Risso’s dolphin named Niji that has made the news. She is reported to have been captured along with several members of her pod, some of which were killed for meat and some returned to the ocean. Niji herself is now being held alone in a shallow sea pool, and will be sold to an aquarium.
Wild Welfare’s projects director, Georgina Groves, said: “It is not acceptable for the modern aquarium to be capturing dolphins from the wild. The suffering inflicted on the animals involved in the Taiji drive itself is unacceptable. Niji is now being held alone, separated from everything she knows and is destined for a life far removed from what she would have lived in the wild with her family.
Wild Welfare welcomed the decision made by the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) in 2015, when it prohibited its member aquariums from taking dolphins captured in Taiji. This resulted in some aquarium members leaving JAZA membership so they could continue to source dolphins from the drives.
Upon discussion with JAZA, JAZA representatives said: “The 10th International Aquarium congress was held in Fukushima last week, and we are committed to appropriate conservation and care within our aquarium community. We stand by our decision to not allow members to accept dolphins caught from the wild by drive fishing, as we believe it is unnecessary and an unacceptable form of acquisition of animals for our aquariums. JAZA is working hard to raise standards of welfare within its membership, recognising that good welfare underpins conservation and educational programmes.”
Dolphins are highly intelligent and social animals that can travel long distances in the wild and that naturally live in complex, dynamic social groups. To avoid any welfare compromises in captivity, it is important they are provided with sufficient water space, appropriate social groupings and suitable species-specific environmental enrichment. However, their inherent complex nature means that it is very difficult to satisfactorily meet high standards of welfare in captivity.
Georgina Groves added: “There is no place for the Taiji dolphin drive in today’s society where we have such a good understanding of animal welfare and the capacity animals have to suffer.
“Zoos and aquariums must lead the way in terms of animal welfare and taking a positive, compassionate approach to the needs of animals, rather than allowing the human desire for entertainment to condone and perpetuate animal suffering.”
Wild Welfare will continue to liaise with its zoo and animal welfare colleagues in Japan, and will support any call to bring an end to the Taiji dolphin drive.
Notes to Editors
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