Albino dolphins are beautiful, rare and in demand. So when a group of fishermen in Taiji, Japan came across a pod of 16 Risso's dolphins with one albino Risso, they drove the pod back towards a cove that became infamous back in 2009.
Activists and filmmakers called attention to this cove when they discovered that dolphin slaughters were occurring there annually. Up to 2,000 dolphins can be culled by fishermen every season.
Though the news rattled the world, culls are still regular and Sea Sheperd, a conservation organization, has been keeping an eye out and documenting the number of dolphin captures. The Risso's pod is just the most recent case - and this year alone, 15 dolphin pods have been captured.
Pods can have as many as 30 individuals, so the deaths add up rapidly - almost 170 dolphins in this case. But not all dolphins are killed in the cove, some are captured and sold - like the albino Risso's dolphin. Albino dolphins can fetch a high price. This one will be sold for £300,000 (about US $470,000) according to the Daily Mail. It will spend the rest of it's life in captivity.
“It is horribly sad to see another albino dolphin taken by the killers here in Taiji," said Karen Hagen a leader of the Cove Guardian campaign based in Taiji in a press release. "These rare, beautiful, and unique animals will spend the rest of their days confined to small tanks, where they will live out their shortened lives performing tricks for food.”
As for the rest of the pod, their fate was not better. Eleven dolphins were killed, one was taken into captivity and three babies were released, but their chances of survival without their mothers are not high.