Japan’s tragic orca anniversary – February 7th 2007

February 7th 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic day in 1997 when 10 members of an orca family were herded into a small bay near the Japanese coastal town of Taiji.

Within a few days, 5 members of the family had been shipped to captive tanks, and the other 5 members released (they had to be chased away). Three of the captives were taken to Shirahama Adventure World, one to Izu Mito Sea Paradise, and one to the Taiji Whale Museum. Collectively, they became known as “The Taiji Five”. A great cry arose from around the world. Literally thousands of people made impassioned appeals to Japan to return the orcas to the ocean, and dozens of rallies and demonstrations were held, all to no avail. Within a few short months, two of the Shirahama captives were dead, a young male, and a female who was pregnant when captured and soon aborted her baby. Some years later, in 2003, the Taiji Whale Museum sold their female, then 10 years old, to the Nagoya Aquarium. The following year (2004) Shirahama’s last captive died. Today, there are just 2 survivors; both are females: “Ku” at the Nagoya Aquarium, and 16 year old “Asuka” at Izu Mito Sea Paradise. The fate of the 5 members of the pod who survived the capture remains unknown.

In part, the tragedy of the Taiji Five lies in the certain damage the capture did to Japan’s fragile orca population. In part, it lies in the lost opportunity Japan had to correct a great mistake that occurred out of ignorance. Very little is known about Japan’s orcas, but their numbers are certainly tiny. In the 1950s and 60s, the population was decimated by coastal whaling operations, and in recent years it has suffered other tragic losses in ice entrapments. The fragility of the population makes it imperative that such captures never happen again!

These are the cries of the littlest baby. He died just a few months after the capture. (play audio)

At this time, so many years after the event, it is very unlikely that any appeal will convince Japan to release the two surviving captives. However, Japan must be convinced to take steps to prevent any future repetition of the Taiji tragedy. The threat of new capture attempts is very real. Japanese officials are presently considering a new application to capture orcas at Taiji.

Please take a moment to appeal to Prime Minister Abe requesting that Japan’s orca population be fully protected under Japanese law, and that no captures be allowed in the future. Please also copy your letter to the other officials on the list below. Thank you!

If the legacy of the Taiji Five is that Japan’s orcas forever remain free from threats of harm, including capture, their tragic fate may not have been in vain.

For further information and links, please visit http://www.sha-chi.jp/.

Contact information:

Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
Public Comment Form (contact link at bottom of page)
( Japanese Only )

Mr.Toshiro Shirasu
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Public Comment Form:
( Note that they say they can accept domestic comments )

Fisheries Agency whaling-section
E-mail: [email protected]
Fax:+81 3 3502 0806

Mr. Kazutaka Sangen, Mayor of Taiji
E-mail: [email protected]
Fax: +81 735 59 2801

Mr. Bunmei Ibuki
Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
E-mail: [email protected]
Fax: +81-3-3597-2757
*Aquariums and Zoos in Japan are under their control.

Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Mr.Teruyuki Komiya, Director of JAZA
Fax:+81 3 3837 1231

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