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Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Orca (ID171) breaches off the coast of Scotland © Steve Truluck.

Watching whales and dolphins in the wild can be life changing

Whales and dolphins are too intelligent, too large and too mobile to ever thrive in...

First pilot whales of the season killed in Taiji

Reports from Taiji reveal the brutal struggle of a large pod of pilot whales that were chased, captured and held for several days before their slaughter. On November 19th, at least 50 pilot whales, including mothers and calves, were driven into the cove. They were held overnight, and separated into two groups the following day. At least half of the whales were dragged under the tarpaulins and killed, and the rest remain trapped in the cove for another day, their fate uncertain.

The cruelty inflicted upon the whales over the last several days is overwhelming as entire families of pilot whales have been destroyed. These sentient and self-aware creatures are physically and psychologically traumatized by the hunts, as they must not only endure being driven miles from sea, physically exhausted, injured, or separated from family members, but also experience the audible distress of trapped or dying pod mates.

With this recent hunt, since the start of the season on September 1st, at least 300 dolphins have been driven into the cove in Taiji, Japan. Of this total, at least 175 have been slaughtered, and 57 have been taken alive into captivity. The drive hunts may run into the month of April (for pilot whales), meaning the season is just nearing its midway point.

Hunting quotas have been set for the 2015-16 season and allow for 1,873 dolphins to be taken in the drive hunts in Taiji alone. Of this total, 101 pilot whales are allowed to be taken. Over 900 bottlenose and striped dolphins may be killed, along with hundreds of other spotted, Risso’s, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and false killer whales.

Pilot whales, like other toothed whales, show advanced cognition, including complex social and self-awareness. These individuals undergo a prolonged process involving not only the herding offshore but confinement, holding, and eventual corralling to the shoreline, followed by killing in close proximity to conspecifics and other members of their social and family groups. The entire process can last many hours or even days.