The Capture Follows Another White Risso’s Dolphin Captured Nov. 23 (Japan time) Originally Reported to be Albino, Now Confirmed Piebald
Five days after news broke of a second white dolphin — originally reported to be albino, and now confirmed as piebald — captured in the cove this season in Taiji, unbelievably another rare, white Risso’s dolphin was driven in and captured in the cove on Friday (Nov. 28 Japan time), report Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians from on the ground in Taiji.
While Thanksgiving was being celebrated in the US, Friday morning in Japan the Taiji dolphin killers located the 16th pod of Risso’s this season and relentlessly drove them into the cove. After the nets were dropped and the hunters circled their prey, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians were stunned to see that another white dolphin — now confirmed to be albino — was swimming within the pod. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians speculate the pod may have been the remaining family members of the pod caught earlier in the week.
The killers had dollar signs in their eyes, as they quickly snatched the albino dolphin away from its family in the killing cove. The entire family of five was destroyed as four members were brutally slaughtered and the albino was kidnapped for a life in captivity. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians have named the albino male dolphin Yuki, which means “snow” in Japanese. The Cove Guardians are giving the rare, white dolphins Japanese names in an effort to rally compassionate Japanese citizens to take a stand against the ongoing atrocities committed in the cove.
Within hours of Yuki being dumped into the Taiji Harbor sea pens, the Taiji Whale Museum trainers transferred the dolphin via truck into the museum to keep a closer watch over their newfound treasure. Yuki joins “Shoujo,” also known as “Angel,” the albino bottlenose dolphin captured last January, and “Shiro,” the Risso’s dolphin captured Sunday, Nov. 23 (Japan time) in the cove. Upon review of additional footage of Shiro, the Cove Guardians have confirmed that the female, mostly white dolphin with a large gray spot is in fact piebald and not albino. Some animals that are mostly white or lighter-colored than usual but have dark eyes are not true albinos. When pigmentation is reduced, or expressed only in certain regions of the body, the condition is called leucism. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin. Although not an albino dolphin, Shiro still represents a rare and lucrative find for the dolphin killers and trainers of Taiji.
The Taiji Whale Museum now has three white dolphins in their possession, potentially worth a combined value of approximately $1.5 million USD.
If not for the Cove Guardians currently on the ground in Taiji, no one would know what is happening to these dolphins who have been captured and hidden from the eyes of the world.
Karen Hagen of Norway, now serving as Cove Guardian Leader on the Ground, is a veteran Cove Guardian volunteer who was present in Taiji with Sea Shepherd last January when the super pod of bottlenose dolphins, including the albino bottlenose calf, was driven into the cove. Remarkably, she has now witnessed and documented the capture of all three of these rare dolphins.
“It is hard to imagine that another albino dolphin has been taken by the killers here in Taiji. These beautiful and unique animals were minding their business, swimming freely with their pods and doing what comes naturally to dolphins, when they swam too close to Taiji’s shores,” Hagen said.“For that, they have paid with their freedom and, some might say, their very lives,” she added.
This was the 16th pod of Risso's to be slaughtered in the cove this season, bringing the total number of Risso's dolphins brutally murdered to approximately 175. At the current rate of Risso’s capture and slaughter, the season’s Risso’s quota of 261 will soon be reached..
Aside from Risso’s, there have only been two other species brought in this season — one pod of bottlenose dolphins and one pod of pilot whales.
“This has been a very unusual drive hunt season,” said Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal. “By this time last season, the killers had captured and slaughtered multiple species of dolphins, from pilot whales to Pantropical spotteds, from striped to Pacific white-sided dolphins and more. This year, they have caught 16 pods of Risso’s, one pod of bottlenose and one pod of pilot whales. While we are elated for the dolphins that are not being found, we are extremely concerned that the reason they are not being found is because these species have been driven toward extinction and depleted from Taiji’s waters,” said Sehgal.
For six months of each year – from September until March – entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales at a time are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.
Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.
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