One thing is certain here in Taiji… every single day, you will encounter something unexpected. Whether this comes in the form of something tragic or something hopeful… you can be sure that when you awake in the morning here, your day will be like none other you’ve had previous.
Today was a prime example of this for us here in Taiji…
We rounded the corner of Taiji Harbour just after 6am this morning, just as the two dozen or so dolphin hunters were preparing their boats for a morning at sea- with projected stormy weather remaining far out on the horizon, the migrating dolphin pods travelling past the waters of Taiji would be in jeopardy once more. It wasn’t too long before we spotted the ‘banger boats’ forming a militant line behind an unsuspecting pod of Risso’s dolphins. The drive from out at sea to the small inlet of Taiji was relatively quick this morning, so Rosie and myself raced down to the cove to park our car, before beginning the short but steep trek up a neighbouring cliff to the dreaded ‘killing cove’ of Taiji.
We barely made it a few hundred metres away from the carpark at the larger cove before I spotted two people on the cold, stony shores of the cove… I quickly identified them as being westerners, so I promptly made my way down to introduce myself, and to find out how and why they came to be here in Taiji. I approached the man closest to me, wearing a sky blue jumper, to my immediate surprise- it wasn’t a ‘man’ at all, but a young boy… After introducing myself to him, I found out that he is just 14 years old… He and his father had heard of the dolphin slaughter here in Taiji through the infamous documentary- they both travelled here to witness the slaughter first-hand. I quickly found out that Ben (the young boy) was a musician, and had come to the cove not only to spread awareness, but to somehow utilise his talents to make a difference here in a unique way… I offered to show the father and son duo around the areas we would usually monitor during a slaughter, all the while learning about their journey in coming to Japan.
Soon after, the four of us settled ourselves atop the neighbouring cliff, watching the drive hunt proceed before our eyes…
Once the dolphin hunters had successfully forced the 8 Risso’s dolphins (including 3 juveniles) into the Taiji Harbour area, things suddenly took an unexpected turn…
The Risso’s dolphins began to fight back!
There was nothing that the dolphin hunters could do to contain the pod of dolphins- and as soon as it seemed as though the pods’ fate was sealed, they would jump a net, swim under a banger boat and speed off toward safety right under the noses of the hunters… If it weren’t for the topography of the area leading up to the cove (we nickname it ‘the funnel’- a long trench of deep water surrounded by jagged rocks and reef, forming an underwater pathway directly into the cove)… Once the dolphins are in this ‘funnel’, there is very little chance that they will ever swim free again. Today, however, it seemed as though the Risso’s dolphins just would not give up- the hunters persevered with their frantic and irritated chase for hours… At one point, a helicopter flew overhead in circles around the drive hunt, as well as a large Coast Guard vessel patrolling waters nearby- we are convinced that the authorities and hunters thought that us activists had something to do with the dolphins’ refusal to enter the cove… however, we were just as astounded!
In a moment that I will never forget, and one of the most severe and poignant contrasts I will ever set my eyes upon, Ben got up (during the drive) and played a song on guitar… His incredible talent, coupled by the innocence exuded by his young age made for an incredible scene.
On one hand, you have Ben- still a child in his own right, playing beautifully haunting music with such innocent and well meant intentions, and you have the sounds of the hunters madly beating away at their metal poles directly behind him, trying to force the pod of dolphins to their imminent deaths… The scene before me was so powerful it actually overwhelmed me quite a lot.
After another hour or so, the hunters managed to tire the pod out completely- after a 6 hour gallant fight… They were herded into the killing cove like so many before them…
Seeing Ben at the cove today gave me just that little bit more hope for the futures of generations to come… the message of marine conservation, and in particular- compassion for other living things- is living through and gaining strength amongst the youth of the world. I desperately hope that it will be this up and coming new generation of leaders that will reverse and mend the mistakes of the past…
I thought it fitting that I bring you guys the scenes of the drive this morning through the image of Ben playing his song… as you listen, you can feel the innocent but passionate hope for a brighter future. To read a short article that Ben wrote about his journey to Taiji, head to this site. Please watch the video below to see Ben’s powerful message through his amazing talent.
For those of you who want to help make a difference and have a hand at stopping the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, click here! Also- to help me in my mission to give a voice to the youth of the world, read all about my new Youth Projecttitled ‘In Our Hands’ and PLEASE get involved! (I will have a very exciting update about the project coming within the next few days so stay tuned!!)
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Thanks again for all the support guys,
On the path to protect,