'Sick to my stomach': dolphin and penguins locked in derelict Japan aquarium
Japan 'Sick to my stomach': dolphin and penguins locked in derelict Japan aquarium
Anger after hundreds of fish and reptiles have been left in tiny pools amid crumbling concrete since January
Anger is mounting in Japan after a dolphin, 46 penguins and hundreds of fish were found to have been abandoned for months in a derelict aquarium.
Animal rights campaigners have warned that the marine animals could die if they are not rescued from the Inubosaki marine park aquarium in the Pacific coastal town of Choshi north-east of Tokyo.
The plight of Honey, a female bottlenose dolphin, as well as scores of Humboldt penguins and hundreds of fish and reptiles, has triggered outrage following reports that they were abandoned when the facility closed seven months ago.
Images taken from outside the marine park in March this year show the solitary dolphin languishing in a tiny pool. In another photograph, dishevelled-looking penguins can be seen perched on a structure near what appear to be piles of loose concrete.'Not ashamed': dolphin hunters of Taiji break silence over film The Cove Read more
The marine park closed at the end of January following a dramatic drop in visitor numbers blamed on the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japanâs north-east in March 2011.
Reports said employees of the marine pa rk were feeding the animals, although it is unclear how they are sourcing food and how much they have left.It is possible that the park still has large stocks of frozen food or that employees are purchasing fresh fish in Choshi, a fishing port.
Animal rights campaigners have been refused entry to the facility, while local authorities have been unable to contact its private owner, Inubosaki Marine Park. Calls to the parkâs owner went unanswered.
âI am worried that Honey will die if this situation continues,â Akiko Mitsunobu , head of aquarium issues at the Animal Rights Centre Japan, told the Guardian.
âLately she has just been repeating the same movements â" dipping her head in and out of the water â" and is showing definite signs of stress. â
Despite claims by the prefectureâs public health centre that the dolphin and penguins are being properly cared for, Mitsunobu said they needed to be seen by animal welfare experts who can offer a second opinion.
Sachiko Azuma, a representative of Japanese animal rights group Peace (Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation), said the former operatorâs silence left her fearing the worst.
âAs a group that handles animals, they have a responsibility to explain what they intend to do with Honey and the other animals,â she said. âCompared to a year ago you can see that her condition has deteriorated. Itâs impossible to say that sheâs healthy.â
Peace has launched a postcard campaign calling for Honey to be r escued, while the animalsâ plight prompted a wave of criticism on social media. âThis makes me so sick to my stomach,â one Twitter user wrote in a post with the hashtag #SaveHoney. âAnimals deserve much better than this.â Another wrote: âI beg the authorities to get in close contact with each other and push ahead with this.â
By last week, the marine park had received more than 800 emails and letters demanding that the animals be moved to a new home.
The Mainichi Shimbun reported that the operator had been in talks with another aquarium about transferring Honey and the penguins but had abruptly ended negotiations and refused to respond to enquiries from the Choshi town government. Local officials are not legally entitled to enter the facility without permission and cannot compel the owner to relocate the animals, the newspaper said.
Honey was taken to the marine park in 2005 after being captured in Taiji, a town on the Pacific coast that drew inter national criticism after its hunts were featured in the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.
In 2015, the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums agreed to stop buying dolphins from Taiji after it was threatened with expulsion from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza).
The move came after the Guardian revealed that Waza had been targeted in a court action launched by the conservation group Australia for Dolphins, which accused it of being complicit in the hunts by failing to take decisive action against Japanese aquariums.
Aquariums in Japan voted to stop buying live specimens from Taiji to avoid expulsion, but a facility in the town quit Jaza in protest, and local fishermen have vowed to continue the hunts.
In a typical hunt the fishermen pursue pods of dolphins across open seas, banging the top of metal poles that extend beneath the water to confuse their hypersensitive sonar and driving them into a narrow cove. Some are killed for their meat, which is sold in local supermarkets and restaurants, while the most attractive specimens are selected for sale to aquariums and sea parks.
The animal rights centre said it feared that Honey could be recaptured if she was returned to waters off Taiji. Instead, it is demanding that she be sent to a sanctuary that closely resembles her natural habitat.
Mitsunobu said Honeyâs plight âreflects the lack of awareness people in Japan generally have about animal welfare and keeping animals in captivity. Aquariums and marine parks are still seen as places for families to have a fun da y out.
âThe issue has been complicated by the fact that it is connected to the Taiji dolphin hunts, but for now this is about the need to do something to help Honey before it is too late.â
- Asia Pacific
- Marine life
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