Taiji Whale Museum On The Albino Dolphin Calf

Photo Credit: Satoshi Komiyama
Photo Credit: Satoshi Komiyama

During my reporting last week on the fate and status of the albino calf (dubbed “Angel”) that was taken captive and shipped to the Taiji Whale Museum, I asked a local Japanese contact if she would relay a list of questions to the Whale Museum for me. Intrepid person that she is, she managed to reach Assistant Director Tetsuya Kirihata. Somewhat to my surprise he provided pretty detailed responses (which were translated by my extremely helpful contact).

For the record (and without comment), I am posting the Whale Museum’s responses here, as I haven’t seen any detailed updates on the calf, and its fate, from the Whale Museum itself.

Q: What is the status of the albino calf?

Kirihata: She’s kept in a spare pool next to the main dolphin show pool with another bottlenose dolphin. At first there were two other bottlenose dolphins in the same pool, but those were more active and would snatch the food she couldn’t catch. Therefore they were moved to another tank.

The reason why she cannot catch the food she is fed is not because she is sick, but probably due to the change of environment. When she manages to be fed, she continues to be fed. She eats the same amount as the other dolphins.

Q: How is she doing?

Kirihata: Compared to other bottlenose dolphins she doesn’t interact with other dolphins as much. It’ll be better if she becomes a little friendlier. During the day her eyes are closed or slightly open and at night they’re open.

She can see [note: observers have wondered about her sight, as most photos, like the one above, show her with her eyes closed] and has no hearing problems. She responds to the splashing sound of the fish hitting on the surface of the water.

Q: Does the Whale Museum plan to keep the calf or sell it to another facility?

Kirihata: We plan to keep her long term.

Q: Is there any possibility of giving her away or selling her?

Kirihata: Not for the moment, but it might happen if another aquarium or a research facility could provide a better or more beneficial environment for her.

Q: How are you able to care for such a young albino calf?

Kirihata: We do not necessarily give her extra care because she is albino. However, as she is still a young calf we do feed her more frequently than other adult dolphins.

We are still observing and examining if she shows any difference from other individual dolphins. The more we know about her the better conditions we can provide for her.

Q: Is there a possibility you will transfer her from the current pool to another pool within the Taiji Whale Museum?

Kirihata: She is only temporarily kept in the spare pool.  Depending on the situations as well as her condition, we will consider transferring her to another pool within the Taiji Whale Museum.

Since albino dolphins are rarely seen in the nature and often do not survive long, we intend to do our best to take care of her and learn as much as possible from this unique albino dolphin.

Also, thanks to the determined efforts of Karla Sanjur, who was on the ground in Taiji for Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, we have video footage of the young albino:

Angel in the Taiji Whale Museum from Dolphin Project on Vimeo.

It is important to note that while the world’s attention has been preoccupied with the experience and fate of the albino calf, her life is no more important than the life of any other dolphin that gets driven into the Taiji capture and slaughter process. It’s just that she is easy to identify and is therefore easy for the world (and the media) to connect with. It shouldn’t be that way, and it would be nice if everyone cared as much about ALL the dolphins as they do about the albino calf. But if people are willing to pay more attention to what happens to dolphins off Taiji because Angel exists, then her experience is important and has additional meaning.

Obviously, Angel did not ask to become the poster-dolphin for the Taiji drive hunt, and would rather still be a wild dolphin, swimming with her mother and pod. But that is the role the human world has given her.

86 thoughts on “Taiji Whale Museum On The Albino Dolphin Calf”

  1. These responses just anger me….there is nothing they can provide her that will make up for what they have taken away.

      1. Just from the robotic comments I worry about this poor baby without a mother and it is the fault of Taiji Japan for mass slaughterings and killing her mother or making her mother overcome to suicide. Whatever the case. This baby is not cared for at all in the way she should be. Shame on Taiji Whale Museum!!

    1. A further 15 UK MPs have signed the motion in the last 24 hours – I’m going to tweet my thanks to them now ! I know it’s not a huge victory (Early Day motion) but it keeps up awareness in our politicians !http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/1004 – UPDATE – 37 signatories !! (only 5 of which are conservative) – keep the pressure on everyone and thank the MPs who have signed – see thread below !!

    2. My thought exactly. What cruel, greedy and heartless people. They kidnapped her, tore her away from her home and family and have the audacity to talk about “a more beneficial environment for her” ???? Clearly, they think we are fools. Geez, they breed such hatred in my heart. What right do they think they have to rob us all of our legitimate natural legacy? These animals belong to the world community, they do not belong to them to do as they please. Murderers and thieves!

      1. I don’t need to say anything, Marie. You’ve said it all. Except to say, and I don’t normally swear, but those fishermen (mammalmen?) are bastards. If I was starving to death and had no work I could not do their job.

  2. She’s a cold hearted B. Despicable person. How dare she think that she and her criminal cohorts can take better care of this baby than it’s own mother. In fact, I hope that she is not a mother because that would mean that some poor child has a monster for a mother. Monsters.

  3. Thank you for yet another very information, if of course sad and tragic, update on this situation. I also agree with you that it’s important that we remember that the lives of *all* cetaceans in this barbaric drive hunt are important, not just one who is albino. If her color and capture make more people fight the fight to stop the slaughter, great. But each and every cetacean is worthy of our love and our fight to protect them.

    1. Regarding the cautionary view to not forget the other dolphins. We know in our hearts that won’t happen. We are galvanized to the entire cause by Angel. She is a natural beacon for awareness. Japanese dismissal that she is no different except for her stand-out whiteness serves their desire to be left undistracted from their cruelty ventures. But, I’m worried these people who do not celebrate individuality and freedom actually won’t treat her different. To be treated as the others is a horrible thing for Angel. She will sunburn severely and will darken to an impure appearance of splotched and cracked bacterial prone skin. Her photosensitive eyes will burn and scar inside and out ..additionally due to the chlorine and chemicals. They haven’t the facility to address special needs. This is a factory trade. They hesitate to use a single one of the tarps extensively cloaking their macabre cove of ‘happy killing’. Theirs is a childish joy of reckless irresponsibility simply to possess. Poor workers can’t help it, it’s their job. They won’t question life as individuals and continue making a living based on the suffering and dying of others. As they don’t believe in hell, they ignore hell on earth. A simple inclusion of marine mammals to their laws against cruelty and prolonged agony would address much of this .. but those of authority in Japan still think dolphin are fish ..because they say so 😦

  4. This makes me believe they keep her only because of her uniqueness, like some kind of prize! It angers and saddens me beyond belief, there isn’t any reason for this beauty to remain captive in this pool. A clorinated tank is no match for the seawater she has lived in for many years. Thank you for the update. The role we humans gave her sucks!

  5. Has Angel been evaluated by an expert on her eyesight? It seems weird that she closes her eyes during the day and opens them during the night…. The responses have only angered me further! They are treating this poor baby like she is disposable! She is a living being!

    1. See Gudren Wiesflecker’s post below (Jan.30, 1:11 p.m.) regarding the dolphin’s eyes.
      It appears that the calf’s dorsal fin is sunburned, another problem due to lack of pigment.
      I wonder if she’s spending less time under water since the surroundings are so unnatural.

    2. I would bet that in the wild she would send a lot of the day in deeper darker waters, because of the bright sun. I saw a National Geographic documentary about human albinos in Africa who didn’t go out much during the day and were therefore considered antisocial. The film makers got them some sunglasses and the guy joined a soccer team, It changed their lives. In the wild a dolphin would have the very deep waters of the ocean to get away from the day time sun. The fact that Angel is sunburned leads me to believe that this is the problem’

      1. Yes, it’s obvious that an albino animal needs special care from an animal expert. By the nature of her de-pigmentation she is extremely vulnerable in shallow water, where sun rays can reach her. She closes her eyes because sunlight is unbearable to her. She’s not blind but can see better in the darkness. She has no protection in her body tissues from damaging UV rays. If she must be captive she ought to be sheltered. Pah! It’s annoying that they lack what seems like even the most basic knowledge of how to care for an albino.

  6. Would love to know how they could be so insensitive and immoral as to support the hunt drive and not condemn it, given their knowledge. Is it a neurological defect? Do they lack the neurons responsible for empathy? Are they just so interested in their own self-preservation that they are incapable of speaking out against such an enormously inhumane thing as the drive hunts (that are primarily for money paid by these aquariums)?

    1. Well Taiji Whale Museum is a profit-making institution, and I believe the town of Taiji is a part owner or at least gets revenue from the museum. But more broadly, I think many Japanese view dolphin slaughter and consumption as not being that much different than slaughter and consumption of beef and pork in factory farms in the west, especially the US. It is possible to make the argument that the dolphin slaughter is more inhumane than factory-farm slaughter (and dolphin fishermen could argue that at least the dolphins have lived a natural life in the wild). But these are all arguments about degrees if inhumanity. So the western condemnation of dolphin slaughter loses moral authority because it comes from a culture which also indulges in, and profits from, extreme cruelty to animals (just different species). Until we deal with that moral inconsistency it is hard to have much impact on the drive hunts.

      1. Glad to hear you bring this up. I know that some feel that the Japanese argument that we in the West also slaughter and eat animals is one that we should shrug off as irrelevant. I don’t think it is. And if we shrug it off we are no better than SeaWorld who shrugs off (denies, or lies about) every fact that was presented in Blackfish. I think their argument has merit. When I am personally confronted with this argument, I tell the person that I don’t believe any animal should be slaughtered for food, and because of that I am a vegan. And that I protest all slaughter of animals. And captivity.

      2. The argument that western livestock slaughterhouse are more inhumane fails. According to an academic paper published in 2013 in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science titled, “A Veterinary and Behavioral Analysis of Dolphin Killing Methods Currently Used in the ‘Drive Hunt’ In Taiji, Japan,” the most current killing methods used by the Taiji creates such terror and pain it would be illegal to kill cows in Japan and developed countries in that manner. Several veterinarians and behavioral scientists evaluated the rod and peg method in a video they obtained covertly and concluded as follows: “This killing method….would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.” In addition, the old adage “two wrongs don’t make a right was never more appropriate than here. What’s next, saying starving Africans are okay because there are starving Americans? The logic of immorality promoting immorality is absurd.

      3. What if Japan develops a “humane” killing method, which is certified by independent parties, or decide to breed and farm dolphins, would the west be ok with that? or will they continue to protest?

      4. Tim, very valid points, the way the west treats animals of all kinds is in many cases tragic. I believe people must be much more aware of where their food, and clothing (wool/leather) comes from, also their pets are not always safe from cruelty, add into this the entertainment industry – legal and illegal and the entire issue becomes global NOT just Taiji!

  7. The iris does not have enough pigment to block the light, thus the decrease in pupil diameter is only partially successful in reducing the amount of light entering the eye. Additionally, the improper development of the RPE, which in normal eyes absorbs most of the reflected sunlight, further increases glare due to light scattering within the eye. The resulting sensitivity generally leads to discomfort in bright light.

      1. Please send this info. back to the people who should looking after Angel,so they at least have enough knowledge to protect her!

  8. I am always upset when I see any captive or dead dolphin. But I want to add that as horrible as the methods used on the captured or slaughtered dolphins, we must consider that more dolphins are killed each year by pollution, or commercial fishing practices. I agree that the Taiji hunts must halt, but we also must stop using the ocean as a dump AND refrain from eating seafood. The Taiji dolphin slaughter images are powerful, hence the passionate outrage. The same response is not replicated when asking someone to stop eating seafood or quit washing your car! Both of which kills more than just dolphins. Peace.

    1. I think we need to focus. The drive hunts and their support exhibit intentional and reckless disregard for these highly intelligent mammals. Mercury pollution must be stopped, but is generally not intentional or reckless. The hunt drives degrade not only the dolphins, but the entire human race and allow a more dangerous moral precedent.

      1. I agree with you. I am simply underlining that the unintentional harm, as you put it, needs to be addressed as well. More humans are inflicting unintentional harm to dolphins and whales than the humans who brazenly and directly slaughter them. Hopefully, the exposure of Taiji, the Solomon and Faroe cetacean massacres will bring awareness. For the record, I do not fish, support fishing or eat seafood. I do not eat animals at all. Thank you for your reply.

    2. I understand your point Debra. I have personally been with humpbacks whales who were severely entangled on two occasions. One was a calf who died. It was unbelievably horrid to see their suffering. But entanglements, and other suffering of cetaceans, don’t make news as much as the gross killing in Taiji. I’m glad, of course, that Taiji gets all the attention it deserves. But it is a point well taken that every other form of harm to cetaceans needs attention too. The ONLY reason approximately 3,000 cetaceans (not to mention the thousands more of other marine mammals, sharks, turtles and sea birds) are entangled in fishing gear every year, with less than 3% ever getting help from humans, is because humans eat fish. Entanglement creates as much suffering, sometimes for many years when death is slow to come, as the Taiji slaughters.Shirley, I am totally, totally with you that these hunts need to stop, but it’s also true that every time we eat fish we are also what you so aptly exhibiting intentional and reckless disregard for intelligent cetaceans. . . who will be entangled and suffering horrifically.

      1. Oops, correction: in my last sentence above I left out a word. I meant to say, . . “every time we eat fish we are also what you so aptly *called* exhibiting intentional and recklesd disregard for intelligent cetaceans. . .”
        Sorry! Hope it makes better sense now. And just want to say I am happy we are all even having this conversation.

  9. “Since albino dolphins are rarely seen in the nature and often do not survive long, we intend to do our best to take care of her and learn as much as possible from this unique albino dolphin.”

    Hmmm…a foretelling excuse in case this albino dolphin should die in their care.


  11. She is an albino, her eyes are very sensitive to light!!! See Gudrun Wiesflecker’s comment!!

  12. What they did and are doing is totally wrong. To snatch a baby away from its mother is wrong. We all know how strong the maternal instinct is. I cannot bring myself to imagine the emotional agony they make these creatures suffer, let alone the brutal slaughter. By the same token when a cows baby is snatched away so we can take all the milk is equally wrong. However we are fighting both. We are telling Japan to stop and we are telling our factory farms to stop. The question is not about hypocrisy but about who will raise above this immorality to nobility, by doing the right thing.

      1. Animal farming will never go away, because human will always eat meat. Personally I’m a meat eater and I enjoy my meat.

  13. SHAME ON THEM. She should have been left with her mother, She never left her mothers side. Maybe that how she has lasted this long, her mothers care, And the on the pod they were with, was her family. . Now she is with people that have a price for every thing and all they care about of is Self self self and how much things are worth money. That’s all they care about.. Animals to them are just easy money.

  14. I can say with an open heart that I care for all dolphins and am saddened to see any suffer in any way. I wish I could make it better for them.

  15. Thank you for some news on the baby dolphin – can’t believe the Taji Whale Museum’s response that they are ‘taking care of her’ – unbelievably sad 😦

  16. Tim do you think the dolphin was caught by the fisherman believing it would be worth more or were they asked to catch it ? thank nj

    1. My guess is that both the fishermen and the dolphin brokers on the beach immediately recognized its potential value as a display animal. It was the very first dolphin selected for captivity and pulled from the water.

  17. Poor, Poor little thing….. I’m sure her eyes are sensitive to the light since she always has to be at the surface…… She would have been fine with her mother and pod mates, now only sad and depressed……. F-you Taiji fisherman and abductors!!!

  18. Why..if they truly cared about the calf and wanted the best for it…and if they could take any dolphins they wanted…why didn’t they take her mother so that she could continue to nurse…or at least be assured that the mother would help her feed. These people don’t use their heads…they want something and they just TAKE it..without any forethought…compassion, or common sense.

  19. Heartbreaking to see a baby taken from mother just to swim circles in a small tank instead of being free in the ocean, as it should be. Shame on the Greed of Taiji!

  20. yes the Western world does consume and slaughter livestock on a daily basis..however these animals at some point were bought and paid for by the farmer, he raised them, fed them, bred them etc…The Taiji fisherman did not pay for these dolphins ,they STOLE them..big difference!

    1. Humans have been hunting animals since the dawn of time, your statement above implies that all hunters that hunt for animals are all thieves? Cows, sheeps etc.. were once wild animals as well, until human domesticate and farm them. So if Japan now develops method to breed and farm dolphins, would you be ok with that?

      1. More and more people are giving up meat, especially for health reasons and also the environment (e.g., impact on global warming). Drive hunting or slaughterhouse killing these highly intelligent mammals is about as backward as it gets.

      2. Active4Orcas – typical eco-zealot reply, I’m not surprised.. you have this complete one sided view and want to impose your beliefs on everybody. When people dont agree, you abuse them, no wonder you never have support from mainstream governments and the larger public. Without any compromise between environmentalists and the Japanese, I can almost tell you that the Japanese will never stop their hunts, we can be back here 10 years from now debating this topic

    2. Terri I understand the distinction. However, they all feel the same trauma and pain, whether some factory farm corporation bought or raised them or whether they were stolen out of the ocean. Same pain. Same suffering.

      1. The distinction is supposedly the intellectual capacity. Dolphins are closer to humans in their ability to form culture, demonstrate high intelligence, form social groups who care for each other [and often for humans in distress]. This is what to many signifies a distinction from domesticated farm animals. To me, there is no distinction and the treatment of farm animals is just as abhorrent as the treatment of these dolphins, thus I do not eat meat – even though I love it, and do feel I have a birthright to eat meat. Unless the animal has been allowed a natural lifestyle, and afforded a dignified and as humane an ending as possible, I will not eat it. To me there is a level of hypocrisy in deeming one animal [say a pig] worth a life of torture and pain, but that a dog or horse should be treated differently. Same with the dolphins. They want to go out and catch them a few at a time and eat them – all well and good. They are not doing that, not even close. Most of what they kill is not eaten, as they don’t like dolphin meat – but the dolphin isn’t there to eat the fish they do like anymore – and that is what this is all about.

      2. We do not have to choose between ending the horrible Taiji dolphin slaughter vs ending slaughtering of other animals (e.g. cows). That is a manufactured dichotomy and a waste of energy. We need to work together to evolve and create a more civilized and moral society especially by ending this horrible a Taiji dolphin slaughter primarily for aquarium profits!

  21. They continued to kill 90 dolphins this week
    https://www.facebook.com/SeaShepherdCoveGuardiansOfficialPage?fref=tsBoycott Tourism to Japan, Boycott radiated food (i.e. sea food, beef, pigs, chickens etc)
    and products from Japan to avoid blood and thyroid cancer,infertility and giving birth to abnormal child. Now Dolphin and pilot whales meat contain low level of radiation and high level of mercury, thank to Fukushima nuclear plants explosion. 「クジラ類(イルカとクジラ)の大量虐殺のための日本への観光旅行しません。 放射線と血液がんや水銀中毒になる日本のシーフード製品をボイコットします。」

    全面杯葛抵制日本旅遊日本产品,海产品. 理由: 日本屠夫对(海豚和鲸鱼)進行(1)种族灭绝(2)輻射及(3)血液癌危機.日本因輻射問題已令今年吞大魚價錢大跌九成

  22. A further 15 UK MPs have signed the motion in the last 24 hours – I’m going to tweet my thanks to them now ! I know it’s not a huge victory (Early Day motion) but it keeps up awareness in our politicians !http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/1004 – UPDATE – 37 signatories !! (only 5 of which are conservative) – keep the pressure on everyone and thank the MPs who have signed – see thread below !!

    1. Please people sign this! It’s so very important!! In the last 48 hours “We the People” received 136,000 signatures to deport Justin Bieber back to Canada, it is sitting on Obama’s desk right now! How sad is this!! The DOLPHINS ONLY HAVE 4000+ signatures at this time. This is what’s wrong with this world!! WE ARE THEIR VOICE!! SPEAK LOUD, SPEAK UP!!!

  23. I don’t understand why they couldn’t keep the mother too. From the video shot, she was frantic and very easy to identify. They could have ensured that their rare little prize lived… at least a little bit longer. The director does not seem to be aware of the special sensitivities of an albino calf “We do not necessarily give her extra care because she is albino” gives the impression that the sunburn and sensitivity to light (and possibly chlorine) are not considered at all. Poor thing.

  24. Huh? They said they were going to provide care for Angel with knowing that albino dolphins, according to them, do not survive for a long time. That’s damn right, because the dolphin is capitvated whereas the prison is not her natural environment thus she doesn’t have her biological family and group of dolphins to care for her in the wild. Sheesh…

  25. SERIOUSLY?!? “It’ll be better if she becomes a little more friendlier””. You stole this baby from her Mother & her pod family!! “She doesn’t interact with the others”” REALLY?!? Poor baby is stressed, scared, has no idea what is going on & WHY she was stripped from her Mother who she swam right next to her short little life! This is horrific! No shade & her eyes & body are burning from the strong sun! This has to STOP!! Please sign petitions!!!

  26. The reason she stands out is the name..Angel..they named her that because of how special and beautiful she is – a gift from God or Mother Nature if you prefer..yet she is not special enough to be spared this horrific treatment. She may well not have survived long in the wild, as her colour is not suited to the life they lead, but her shorter life would have been of a much higher quality – and the choice to disrupt her entire existence and murder her family is not ours to make.

  27. This absolutely sickens me. Shame on the people of Taiji. It is unbelievable that all of this is still going on. The country of Japan should be so ashamed. They need to do whatever they can to end this. Some of us in the U.S. are doing what we can from a distance.#tweet4taiji

    1. We need to restore the German U-boats to full functionality. They did England so much harm but now they could do the dolphins so much good.

  28. I think I know why her eyes are closed by day and open by night. Albino humans are v sensitive to light. I wonder if that’s what’s troubling her. Of course, in the wild, not only would she be on the surface but doing lots of short dives as well to build up her breath-holding abilities. No doubt she doesn’t have need nor opportunity to do that stuck in a minute tank. Poor, poor animal.

  29. Sadest story in the whole world. I connect with angel because I am saddened and heartbroke that she has no mother, that her mother comitted suicide after she franticaly fought to save her special baby from the evil monsters of taiji. The cove guardians have footage of the mother, they watched angels mother spy hopping searching for her baby, then she slowly went under the water and did not resurface, she comitted suicide. This is why this story should be told to the entire world, and to never be forgotten what these barbaric fishermen did to all the dolphins. Shame on you taiji director, you are disgraceful man, inhumane, heartless, monster. Angel now swims alone, motherless, just a baby, afraid and lonely, staying in the middle of your tank far away from you, the monsters who brutaly killed her family. Your remarks are arrogant, and the world is watching you. You can do nothing right for Angel other than to release her to a sanctuary, in hopes she will go free to her ocean once again. World please keep the fight going for Angel, and all the dolphins in TAIJI, the worst place on this planet! Hell On Earth!

  30. This is cruelty to animals. It’s a sin that mankind thinks that they can just catch and do whatever they want with these animals. How would they feel if we locked them up in a tiny room all day everyday. These animals are meant to be free to swim across the ocean in their pods.

    I recently saw a pod of dolphins close to shore in camps bay cape town, and it got me thinking about the Cove. It’s really sad that people can do things like this to these animals.

  31. If they had left the pod alone, Angel would still be with her mother learning how to survive in the wild. However, since she was captured at such an early age she can never be freed. Living free with her mother would have been the best place for her, but since they stole her the best for her now would be a an experienced aquarium, but since she was involved in the drive hunts she can’t be taken to an aquarium in the USA. (No USA Dolphins are from the Taji drive hunts, it’s illegal). Hopefully they can keep her tended to until a better place is found. This issue could have been avoided completely if they had left Angel and her mother were they belonged.

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