Victory! World’s Top Zoo Association Kicks Japan Out Over Cruel Dolphin Drives

This week, animal advocates are celebrating news that the world’s top zoo association has finally suspended its Japanese member over its ties with the brutal dolphin drives that take place every year in Taiji.

Conservationists have been working for years to get the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to take a meaningful stand against member facilities that support the live capture of dolphins, but it had yet to take any real action until now.

WAZA announced that after failing to reach an agreement regarding its policies addressing the acquisition of animals, it voted unanimously to suspend the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) because of its continued involvement with controversial drive hunts.

Whale and dolphin advocates have brought these hunts into the public’s view, most notably with the award-winning documentary “The Cove,” and have raised international outrage over the mass slaughter and captures of dolphins that continue to take place annually.

While thousands are butchered and sold for their meat, more are torn from their families and sold to zoos and aquariums for public display. Many have continued to argue that if it weren’t for the money brought in by sales for captivity, the drives would have ended by now.

WAZA has said it condemns the drives and is not involved in any way, but it had continued to allow JAZA to violate its Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare without consequence. Now JAZA is finally being held accountable.

WAZA said in a statement that it “requires all members to adhere to policies that prohibit participating in cruel and non-selective methods of taking animals from the wild.” It added: “The basis for the suspension is a determination that JAZA has violated the WAZA Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare. Moreover, WAZA Council re-affirmed its position that members of WAZA must confirm that they will not acquire dolphins from the Taiji fishery.”

“We congratulate and applaud WAZA Council for doing the right thing,” said the Dolphin Project‘s Ric O’Barry. “Their credibility with their peers has been destroyed. This is a big win for all wild dolphins swimming past the shores of Taiji.”

The suspension also comes on the heels of a lawsuit that was filed last month by Australia for Dolphins (AFD), which hoped to get WAZA to uphold its Code of Ethics, or give JAZA the boot.

“The suspension of JAZA following AFD’s legal action is great news. It is a significant first step towards ending the horrific annual dolphin hunts in Taiji,” said Sarah Lucas, CEO of AFD. “Up to 40% of total demand for Taiji dolphins comes from WAZA network aquariums. WAZA’s decision to suspend its Japanese member for involvement in the hunts is a major blow to the world’s largest dolphin trade.”

According to AFD, JAZA facilities are home to more than 600 dolphins, while more half of JAZA’s 65 members acquire dolphins from the Taiji drive hunts. Whale and Dolphin Conservation, which is also applauding the move, added that since 2004, over 1,200 dolphins caught in the hunts have been sent to dolphinaria in Japan and other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, China, Iran, Palau, the Philippines and Turkey.

AFD says it will continue with its legal action on behalf of dolphins who end up in other countries and, following the exposure of other serious abuses last month, hopes to get WAZA to enforce its animal welfare policies at all of its member facilities.

While the announcement is a huge step towards ending the drive hunts, captivity itself is still a major problem for dolphins and cetaceans. The demand won’t end until we stop supporting facilities that keep them.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Asia is rotten and rotting from within. Countries like Japan keep saying they have a "culture". I don't see any culture, all I see is a bunch of greedy destructive criminals.

Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 2 years ago

Signed :)

.2 years ago

congrats! they determined to ignore activists' protest. they kill dolphins to live

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

M Groulx
M Groulx3 years ago

When will Japan realize that their actions on the animal population of the world are making a huge hole in our wildlife population. Wake up Japan!

Laura A.
Laura A3 years ago

These are the stories that make us go on in starting and signing petitions!

Kaia J.
Kai J3 years ago


elsa mossberg
elsa M3 years ago

The success stories are so heartwarming and proof we can make a difference! Thankyou for posting :}

Jette Bendix
Jette Bendix3 years ago


Sarah Crockett
Sarah Crockett3 years ago

Thank you.