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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sick Dolphin in Taiji Creates a Storm of International Protest

Nov 9, 2011

Elizabeth Batt

Jiyu, clearly emaciated, spyhopped repetitively - Image courtesy of Heather Hill, Save Japan DolphinsPleas to Dolphin Base in Japan requesting assistance for a sick dolphin affectionately named Jiyu have failed. Sources believe Jiyu was slaughtered.

Nov. 09, 2011. Cove Monitors and Guardians for both Save Japan Dolphins (SJD) and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) are reporting that despite a global and ardent social media campaign, a bottlenose dolphin, who captured the hearts of international dolphin activists, is believed to have been killed. Meanwhile, messages posted online by Dolphin Resort, appear to directly threaten activists on the ground in Taiji.

Dolphin develops neurotic behaviors

Rosie Kunneke, the lead Cove Guardian with SSCS in Taiji, spotted the sick dolphin several weeks ago where he was being held in a sea pen at Dolphin Base, Japan. Captured from the ocean during one of Taiji's grueling dolphin drives, Jiyu, (as named by Kunneke and meaning freedom in Japanese), was earmarked for captivity sources say, by Japan's, Dolphin Resort.

The dolphin first drew Kunneke's attention after he was observed displaying signs of distress and neurosis. Having been separated from his pod, Jiyu's anxiety was palpable as the bottlenose began to spyhop repeatedly. After receiving an injection of what Kunneke suspects was a sedative, Jiyu, Kunneke said, "Appeared calmer and did not spyhop as often." Yet despite the dolphin's sedated appearance, the Cove Guardian observed that Jiyu always kept his distance from trainers, refusing to interact with them and taking himself to the corner of his pen at feeding times.

At some point, says Kunneke, Jiyu was moved to another pen and observers lost sight of the bottlenose for a couple of days. When he was finally relocated in another sea pen, Sea Shepherd Guardians and SJD Cove Monitors were appalled by his condition and behavior. Heather Hill with SJD, reported that Jiyu was spyhopping repetitively every 15 seconds or so. Photographs taken by Hill, appear to show Jiyu emaciated to the point where his skeleton can clearly be seen.

He even refused to be stirred by the presence of fellow captive dolphins, Hill says. "If the other dolphins in the pen got too close, which they often did," she added, "[...] he'd simply drift over to another corner and continue spyhopping."

Jiyu, adds Hill, was completely ignored by the trainers at feeding time and was offered neither food or medical treatment. Kunneke later reported that she approached a man believed to be the owner of Dolphin Resort and politely asked in Japanese for freedom for Jiyu. "He just nodded his head and walked off," Kunneke said. Later when a fisherman actively involved in the dolphin slaughtering approached the pen, the SSCS Guardian suspected that Jiyu's fate had already been determined. The man after spotting Kunneke observing him, rapidly retreated; Kunneke remained near Jiyu and maintained visual contact with him until after dark.

Activists issue a call to action

Alarmed by both the dolphin's demeanor and his potential fate, Kunneke, along with SJD Monitors Leah Lemieux and Heather Hill, issued a call to action across social media platforms and asked supporters to email or telephone Dolphin Resort/Dolphin Base, to request that Jiyu receive, "Qualified veterinary assistance or assisted release with rehabilitation." Yet despite a slew of international calls and emails to both entities – the calls went unanswered. Now activists believe that Jiyu was slaughtered.

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Dolphin resort issues threats

Dolphin Resort it appears, is clearly going on the defensive. Visiting the official website for now redirects to a Japanese blog with the following message. "To anybody coming to Taiji as an activist, this website is only intended to be a warning. The message is simple. We know who you are, so behave yourself in Japan." Furthermore they write, in a posted Statement to Foreign Readers, "As long as activists put fishermen's faces on blogs, facebook, and youtube without their permission, we do the same for you."

The blog, which is hosted by someone calling themselves Pngtaiji, goes on to suggest that if concerned parties are "Really serious about requesting the Dolphin Base to release the dolphin, you should officially negotiate with the Dolphin Base, with Japanese translator/lawyer, and offer them the price of the dolphin, food, and expenses for releasing the dolphin." Pngtaiji then adds that, "The price of a dolphin is $300,000 according to Ric O'Barry's most recent comment. So suggest you to start collecting money."

Heather Hill told earlier this evening, "As we suspected, the dolphin killers returned and killed Jiyu either sometime last night or this morning. Hope he can find his peace now ..."

Pngtaiji meanwhile, asserts that the dolphin was receiving care, "Live dolphins makes money for such a facility, not the dead ones. Losing dolphins means big loss," they say, but claim to be "not related to Dolphin Base." did contact Pngtaiji about the whereabouts of Jiyu, and was told, "The dolphin is in good hands," but they would not confirm whether the dolphin had been moved or if he was still alive.

Japanese mafia involved?

Certainly tension is increasing all around for activists in Japan. Lauren Williams of Australia's Daily Telegraph, is reporting claims that Japanese "Yakuza" gangsters have launched a campaign of intimidation to force a media blackout on the furore surrounding the country's killing of dolphins and whales. Yazuka organizations are members of traditional organized crime syndicates in Japan prevalent in the Japanese media. Called "boryokudan," by the Japanese police, the term literally means, 'violence group.' In Japan, writes Anthony Bruno of, "There are 110,000 active members divided into 2,500 families," with influence that extends into the USA.

Readers can watch Heather Hill's video report on Jiyu; Hill is a volunteer for the Wild Dolphin Foundation, an Hawaii-based NPO, and the author of My Porpoise Driven Life. She is currently on location in Taiji for Save Japan Dolphins with Leah Lemieux. Rosie Kunneke is on location in Taiji for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. For further information on the dolphin drives in Taiji and how to get involved, visit Save Japan or follow Kunneke's reports from Taiji at Sea Although, Jiyu's sex could not be determined, used "he" for clarity purposes

Read more at Suite101: Sick Dolphin in Taiji Creates a Storm of International Protest


  1. To all activists around the world: Don't let these CREEPS intimated you. That's just what they want so all the activists will go away. We cannot give up on these dolphins, they need us more now then ever. These dolphin killers are cowards in my opinion. It don't take much to hurt a defenseless animal. As long you continue your cowardly acts to these dolphins we will continue to expose you. And we won't stop until this BRUTAL SLAUGHTER STOPS!!! TAIJI YOU DO NOT OWN THESE DOLPHINS!!! YOU CAPTURE THEM IN A COWARDLY WAY!! THIS IS 2011 NOT 17th CENTURY!!

  2. Taiji what makes you think your threats scare us?? When you stop killin these dolphins in such a brutal way then we will go away. Until then we will keep fighting for these creatures. Taiji you don't own these dolphins, they belong in the ocean being free.Your selfish GREED took that away from them.Just because your Government made it legal it dosn't MAKE IT RIGHT!! It's inhumane what your doing and we will fight to the end, cause if we don't then we let the dolphins down. And after years of BRUTAL TREATMENT JAPAN DID TO THEM, THEY DESERVE OUR PROTECTION,MORE NOW THEN EVER!!