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Is Hong Kong Airlines Profiting from the Misery of the Taiji Dolphins?

Taiji Dolphins as Cargo?
Taiji Dolphins as Cargo?
Hong Kong Airlines

February 23, 2012 -

An investigative report conducted by Simon Parry of China Daily Newspaper raises concerns that Hong Kong Airlines is making a huge profit (HK $875,000) for the live transport of dolphins from the infamous Cove in Taiji, Japan.

According to the article published on February 22, 2012, five dolphins were flown via special charter in a B733F on January 16, 2012. The flight departed from Osaka, Japan, and landed in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is said to have lasted seven hours (including a refueling stop at Hong Kong International Airport).

A memo circulated to Hong Kong Airlines staff applauds the operation and features a photo of the five dolphins strapped into a coffin-like structure. Per the memo:

“It is the first time for Hongkong Airlines to fly this kind of large live animal in its history. The smooth handling of such special cargo which is time sensitive and vulnerable, demonstrates that Hongkong Airlines cargo handling capability has further improved. The B733F fleet utilization rate is increased by operating this charter flight during the aircraft spare time, and an extra cargo revenue income of HK $850,000 (including our own cargo sales income on the position sectors) has been achieved, which equivalent to HK$77,000 per block hour. Based on the experience we have obtained this time, Hong Kong Airlines cargo will develop the business onwards.”

According to a report by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, “A dolphin is used to being supported by water pressure evenly spread over every square inch of its skin. When it is taken out of the water the whole weight of the dolphin rests on the narrow strip of skin which is touching the ground. Any flesh or organs near the ground are bruised and crushed by the weight of the dolphin pressing down on them.” In addition to any pain associated with the trauma of being out-of-water, the dolphins’ highly sensitive hearing was subjected to the violent sounds of the jet engines.

Being that the dolphins originated from Taiji, the trauma of the plane trip is only one of many horrors that they will have endured. As documented in the Academy-award winning film The Cove, the dolphins are hunted by members of the Taiji Fisherman’s Union. From September to March, a small fleet of boats searches for dolphins and uses “banger poles” to disrupt the animals’ sensitive hearing. Disoriented and confused, pods of dolphins are driven into a shallow cove where many are slaughtered, the remaining “pretty” dolphins are taken for “training” and then sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars to aquariums and “swim with dolphin” programs worldwide.

For the past two seasons, volunteers from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Save Japan Dolphins have been on the ground in Taiji to document and report on the ongoing tragedy in Taiji. Ceta-Base, the online marine mammal inventory, reports 1,297 dolphins driven into the cove during the 2010/2011 hunt. Of those, 849 were killed and 98 were sold to the captive display industry. As the 2011/2012 hunt soon comes to a close, current numbers are reported as 710 driven into the cove. Of those, 610 were slaughtered and 46 taken into captivity.

Several advocacy groups, including Earth Island Institute, Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, Hong Kong Dolphin Watch, and the social media campaign Save Misty the Dolphin have gone on record to condemn Hong Kong Airlines for its involvement with the controversial dolphins.

On February 22, Save Misty the Dolphin started a petition to to urge Hong Kong Airlines to stop profiting from the misery of the Taiji dolphins. In the petition letter to Airlines representative Catherine Yick, the social media campaign states, “By transporting and profiting from the misery of these dolphins, Hong Kong Airlines has blood on its hands! Dolphins are neither cargo, nor commerce, nor entertainment. Hong Kong Airlines, stop profiting off of animal cruelty!” In just 24 hours, over 1,000 individuals have signed the petition. Thus far, there has been no response from Hong Kong Airlines.

To sign the petition click here

To see the full report from China Daily Newspaper click here

To contact Hong Kong Airlines click here