• Don Lichterman

Used as Surfboards, Last Day & last Dolphin Outlook in Hunting & Capturing Season in Taiji, Japan!

Each year from approximately September 1 to March 1, a large-scale hunt of dolphins takes place in the small village of Taiji, Japan, as made famous by the 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove.”

During this period, fisherman, or more appropriately, dolphin hunters, utilize drive hunt techniques to herd large numbers of dolphins to shore, resulting in their capture or death.

Dolphin Project is the only organization to have been on the ground in Taiji since 2003. Utilizing revolutionary live streaming, we document and broadcast the results throughout the course of the entire season in hopes of bringing this cruel practice to an end. Click here to be a part of the Dolphin Project crew!

Even as Taiji’s dolphin hunting season nears to a close, horrific cruelty towards wild dolphins goes on in full force.

On February 19, a family group of about 55 striped dolphins met a horrific fate in the first red Cove of the week. The pod was chased in from deep waters several miles offshore and trapped in the shallows of the Cove. After the hunters placed nets in the water to trap the pod, chaos broke out. A number of dolphins went into a panic and became entangled in the nets, then proceeded to slam themselves against the rocks. As they got cut and bruised, several areas of water turned red with blood.

A panicked striped dolphin caught in the hunters’ nets. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

As the mammals were frantic and spread out, the hunters struggled to gain control of the pod. When dolphins tired or succumbed to their injuries, they began taking them to the trapped area for slaughter.

The most shocking aspect of this particular day was the moment one of the hunters grabbed a small calf. When the hunters spotted the mammal swimming slowly around, they approached it in their skiff. One of the hunters reached over, plucked the calf out of the water, tossed it into the skiff, and casually dropped nets over the dolphin in an attempt to hide it. The calf was still alive at this point, but the skiff slowly backed up and made its way to the slaughter area, where the dolphin was killed. The entire pod suffered greatly before all of their lives were extinguished.

Shockingly, a small striped dolphin calf is grabbed by a hunter. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

A hunter looks down at a striped dolphin in bloody water. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

The Cove ran red with the blood of the striped dolphin family group. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

Hunters leave on a skiff loaded with the lifeless bodies of striped dolphins. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

The following day, the hunters departed the harbor at sunrise. Very quickly after embarking, they found a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins and drove the pod towards shore. When they got to the waters just outside of the Taiji harbor, they dropped nets in the water and trapped the pod in a small area.

Soon after, one by one, each dolphin in the pod was captured. Several of them struggled, visibly thrashing as they were lifted out of the water and thrown into the hunters’ skiffs. Each dolphin was brought to the harbor, measured and assessed by a dolphin trainer and then thrown into the harbor sea pens. Now these dolphins face a lifetime of training, to eventually become performers for the global captivity industry.

A Pacific white-sided dolphin is measured and assessed prior to being put into captivity. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

A Pacific white-sided dolphin is lifted to be dumped in a sea pen. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

During the next few days, wild dolphins swam safe and free as the hunters were unsuccessful at locating pods. However, very early on Sunday morning the hunters came upon another pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins. They drove the pod in quickly, but appeared to deliberately let a larger portion of the pod go, choosing to focus on netting and trapping a group of seven dolphins.

An army of divers descended upon the group of dolphins and went after them one by one. Each captured dolphin was taken aboard a skiff, brought to the harbor and then dumped into one of the pens.

Wild Pacific white-sided dolphin grabbed by divers for capture. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

Pacific white-sided dolphin being taken to a sea pen. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

At least one dolphin died during the capture process. Before all members of the group were put in the pen, our team documented one trainer and one hunter tying a thin rope around the tail of a lifeless dolphin. This rope was secured to the corner of the pen, presumably leaving the body in the pen while the rest of the family group was dumped in. Keeping in mind the high intelligence and complex social structures dolphins have, this is particularly horrific.

Trainers tie a rope around the tail of a dolphin that evidently died during the capture process. | Credit: DolphinProject.com

None of these Pacific white-sided dolphins volunteered to be taken into captivity. A few of the dolphins appeared to be injured. One of the foam mats used to lift dolphins into the sea pens was visibly bloody.

Red marks visible on a foam mat used for dolphin captures. | Credit: Dolphinproject.com

If no one bought a ticket to a dolphin show, or an encounter to interact with captive dolphins, these dolphin captures would not be taking place. Taiji’s drive hunts are kept profitable by the money made from selling wild-caught dolphins to dolphinariums all over the world, because captive dolphin displays are still being promoted as “fun” experiences. To end the cycle of cruelty, we must focus on ending the demand for captive dolphins. Please continue to help expose the immense cruelty of Taiji’s dolphin hunts to new audiences. Start a chain reaction in your community, by urging your friends and colleagues to oppose dolphin captivity and in turn, continue spreading the message. Together we are a voice for dolphins!

After a decade of relentless campaigning against Indonesia’s traveling dolphin circus, the world’s cruelest dolphin show has been shut down.

Effective today, February 5, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Indonesia has chosen not to renew the permits of the traveling dolphin circus. Wersut Seguni Indonesia, the company responsible for the endless suffering and trade in wild dolphins for the purposes of supplying dolphins for traveling “entertainment” will finally have to close their traveling circus tents.

Traveling dolphin circus, Indonesia. Credit: DolphinProject.com

Traveling circus dolphins loaded onto a truck and carted from show to show, Indonesia. Credit: DolphinProject.com


The dolphins recruited for the traveling circuses were transported from village to village, from city to city, for a period of four weeks at each location. Dolphin Project’s Indonesian team documented their travels and obtained footage of dolphins spending up to three days in coffin-like boxes, trucked through Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Java.

The mammals were forced to perform in small, highly-chlorinated pools, the added chemicals so strong they burn the patrons’ eyes, let alone the dolphins swimming in them. Five times each day the dolphins performed to the amusement of the public, being fed only small pieces of fish during showtime to keep them hungry and willing to entertain. From jumping through hoops, to “dancing” to high-volume music, these routines are repeated over and over.

Local Indonesian activists protest the traveling dolphin circus.

Our team of local activists advocating for the end of the traveling dolphin circus. Credit: DolphinProject.com

A decade of campaigning

Says Femke den Haas, Dolphin Project’s Indonesian Campaign Manager, “This is a historic day for all of us involved. Since 2009 when the traveling dolphin show first started, we have worked tirelessly, sending petitions, coordinating protests, attending numerous meetings, lobbying the government and engaging in comprehensive field research. Today we made history in closing one of the last traveling circuses in the world.”

Dolphin Project also launched a major campaign in Indonesia to close these exploitative operations, including a graffiti & mural art initiative, electronic billboards throughout Indonesia, digital ads at the Bali airport and a traveling educational puppet show.

#FreeBaliDolphins anti-captivity murals in Bali, Indonesia

Anti-captivity digital ads, Bali Airport. Credit: DolphinProject.com

It hasn’t been an easy campaign, but things have changed for the better. The current decision makers at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry have completely turned things around, putting ethics over profits. And as such, the traveling dolphin circus will go down in history as one of the most abusive dolphin shows ever run.

While the traveling dolphin circus is no longer allowed to operate, Wersut Seguni Indonesia is still able to continue with dolphin performances at their permanent facility in Central Java.

Dolphin Project’s Indonesian team will continue to monitor this situation to ensure that no dolphins are carted from town to town again. We will remain vigilant and ensure the law is being upheld. Dolphin Project will also continue to campaign to readapt Indonesia’s remaining captive dolphins and release those that are suitable candidates.

We encourage all our supporters to send a note of gratitude to Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister @siti.nurbayabakar (Instagram).

Bali Sanctuary – world’s first permanent dolphin sanctuary, credit: DolphinProject.com

Many great things have happened recently for dolphins in Indonesia. On August 6, the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, north Bali was closed down, its four performing dolphins, Rocky, Rambo, Johnny and Dewa confiscated from the deplorable conditions they were suffering in. On October 8, Dolphin Project, in conjunction with our local partners, the Central Jakarta Forestry Department and JAAN established the world’s first permanent dolphin sanctuary.

The Bali Dolphin Sanctuary is the first of its kind in the world to care for formerly captive dolphins, with Rocky, Rambo, Johnny and Dewa the first dolphins to be brought here. Prior to the sanctuary being built, we constructed the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of dolphins in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa. Named Camp Lumba Lumba (lumba being the Indonesian word for dolphin), the rehabilitation center addresses the need for effective enforcement mechanisms of a law banning wild dolphin captures in Indonesia. YOUR HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED - Be a dolphin defender by shopping Dolphin Project’s authentic gear!

Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the USA (Tax ID 47-1665067). Your donations are tax-deductible.

SeaWorld Trainers Will No Longer Stand on Dolphins’ Faces

After a months-long PETA campaign, which included a damning veterinary report, numerous local ads and more, SeaWorld confirmed in response to PETA’s shareholder proposal that it will stop making trainers stand on dolphins.

SeaWorld has announced the long overdue news that trainers will stop riding on the faces and backs of dolphins. Imagine being forced to carry a person using your jaws alone, or having to pull someone by a strap wrapped around your nose. Until now, dolphins have been forced to perform these torturous "tricks" during shows. LEARN MORE...

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement; Southeast Regional Division

A slaughtered dolphin bearing a gruesome, fist-sized hole in her face from a gunshot or close-range impalement – this is the latest in a series of sadistic killings along Florida’s coastline.

Last week, a second dolphin died from a gunshot or sharp object wound to their side, and a third dolphin was shot off Captiva last year.

This could be a response to dolphins following boats and begging for food, Stacey Horstman, a bottlenose dolphin expert with the NOAA, told the Palm Beach Post. This behavior can develop when people frequently feed them, which is illegal in the United States.

Regardless of why this barbaric phenomenon is happening, no creature deserves to suffer such an excruciating death, especially in his or her own home.

The individual(s) who mercilessly executed these helpless animals must be found before others are harmed or killed. Sign this petition urging the NOAA’s Southeast Regional Office of Law Enforcement to use all available resources to find the person(s) responsible.

A reward has been offered after two dolphins were found with gunshot and other wounds in Florida in February. Federal authorities are now asking for help for information about two male dolphins found with what appeared to be gunshot wounds.

One dolphin was found in Naples and one off the shore of Pensacola. Officials believe they the animals were wounded by bullets or by stabbing, possibly both. 29 dolphins have been stranded or found with evidence of being shot by guns or arrows since 2002.

Tracy Dunn, who is in charge of law enforcement for the southeast division of NOAA, said of the findings to the New York Times, ” It’s very difficult to solve without the community coming forward.” And added that the deaths were, “some of the worst cases we have seen.”

Biologists believe that animals’ deaths are linked to people feeding the dolphins. As dolphins become comfortable with feeding, they become more comfortable with boats and people and can be exposed to dangerous people or situations.

Stacey Horstman, a bottlenose dolphin conservation coordinator at NOAA, told the New York Times, “When dolphins are fed, their behavior changes. They lose their natural wariness of people and boats. The best advice is not to feed them, not to reach out to them. The seemingly innocent act of feeding dolphins can lead to harm and something like this.”

Anyone with information about these cases, please call the NOAA wildlife hotline at (800) 853-1964. The NOAA is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to civil penalties or an arrest.

Dolphins Living in Despair in the Desert

The Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat was featured on our 10 Worst Tanks list for its exploitation of dolphins. This facility, located in the Mirage Hotel of Las Vegas, "celebrated" the arrival of a new calf last year. However, dolphins being kept in the middle of the sweltering desert is nothing to celebrate. We must encourage the Mirage to stop using dolphins as props for entertainment! ACT NOW

Adopt a Dolphin update February 2020
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The Sustainable Action Network (SAN), A Don Lichterman non-profit organization dedicated to building a global community raising awareness of corruption, injustice and the need for action across a full range of issues impacting people and animal/wildlife welfare around the world, such as conservation, climate change, campaign law, lobbying, government action and rescue work. SAN’s vision is to create safer world, free from political, environmental, and social oppression, where all the inhabitants of Earth can live in harmony within their own natural environments. Our commitment extends to helping local communities, fostering better educational systems, supporting the arts and culture, helping disadvantaged youth, protecting and improving the environment, animal welfare, wildlife issues and encouraging employee volunteerism.

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