Divers wrestle dolphins into slings, which the crane lifts into the crates. The crates are then loaded into the truck with a forklift.
Taiji Dolphin Base recently received two Beluga whales from Russia in exchange for four bottlenose, so we thought these dolphins may be headed there, but we followed the truck just to be safe (much to the chagrin of the police, who had to follow as well).
Dolphin transport truck, Cove Guardian Car #1, police. Not pictured: Cove Guardian Car #2 (me), another police car. Each CG Car contains two volunteers.
At a rest stop. Cove Guardians to the left, police to the right
The police were quite adamant about staying between us and the truck, going so far as to nearly run us off the road when we almost managed to get between them after the truck pulled over. But if they really want to keep us away, they need to work on their low-speed-chase skills because as you can see, we got between them anyway.
Sorry about the poor photo quality; it was raining for a large part of the drive
Since we thought they were going to Russia, we expected them to turn off at Kansai Aiport (where I'm writing this, days later) and it was quite surprising when they kept going.
But so did we. Until we arrived at the dock of the Sun Flower Satsuma, a ferry so big I wasn't able to fit the whole thing in one shot.
We were determined to follow the truck as far as we could without breaking the law, so we entered the lot. We were told we couldn't drive after the transfer truck, but if we parked our cars, we could walk over with our cameras. We complied, but as soon as one of the people in charge saw our Sea Shepherd shirts, the rules changed. Suddenly, we weren't allowed to pass this point:
You can see the truck waaaay in the background if you look under the awning
So we stood there with our long lenses, documenting everything we could and trying to get as much informaiton as possible on the dolphins' possible destination. Then they said we could stay if we got rid of our cameras, but before we could even put our cameras away, they told us we had to leave altogether. Thankfully, we're more resourceful than the people running the port could guess and we found a new, better, vantage point:
Since the truck loaded from the side, they pulled in the truck on the right when we first arrived to try to prevent us from seeing what was happening. They really made a lot of fuss of not wanting us there. Lucky for us, most of the action happened in the back:
Then, out of nowhere, the driver jumped into the truck and pulled out. Without unloading the dolphins! We had split into two groups for more coverage, so one followed right after while the rest of us caught up. He managed to follow for a while and it seemed like the truck might actually be going to a different port (a huge expense), when the police cut him off and refused to allow him to pass, causing him to lose the truck. We returned to the dock, in case the truck had just been leading us on a wild goose chase, but we never saw it again.
Thanks to the research of activists who followed along via Twitter and the Livestream, we're fairly certain the dolphins went to Shibushiwan Daikoku Dolphin Land in Kushima, Japan and were immediately put on display when they arrived after more than 24 hours in those tiny crates.
I don't have the words to describe the heartlessness that can allow someone to rip another creature away from their family, force them to spend the day in a glorified coffin and without even a moment to breathe, throw them out to be gawked at by large, loud crowds. This is not education or tradition, it's cruelty and it's disgraceful. No one who exploits others for money can be trusted. Do not believe the people who work in captivity and say they're unrelated to Taiji. As we'll see in a later post, they're pretty much all connected and all lie. The best thing you can do at home to stop this from happening is to not buy a ticket to dolphin shows, swim with dolphin programs, aquariums, zoos or any other captive facility and tell your friends to do the same.
Note: This post was originally composed on March 3, 2013, but publishing was delayed. I'm currently back in NYC.