7 min read

Dolphin Was Left All Alone In Her Tank In Closed-Down Zoo

She's slowly going crazy 😢💔

Captivity is a lonely existence for any marine animal. But for a bottle-nosed dolphin named Honey, her situation is decidedly worse. For months, Honey has been stuck in a dirty tank in a marine park that’s no longer open to the public. In many ways, she’s been forgotten.

In 2005, Honey was captured during the annual dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan. During these drives, Japanese fishermen round up families of wild dolphins by banging on the hulls of their motorboats with poles, which creates a “wall” of sound that confuses and traps the dolphins. Then the fishermen drive the dolphins in the notorious killing cove — where the most “attractive” dolphins are handpicked for sale to marine parks around the world, and the remaining dolphins are brutally killed for their meat.

Dolphin trapped inside pool at abandoned park
Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project

Not much is known about the specific day that Honey was captured, but it’s likely she experienced a great deal of trauma during the roundup process. Tim Burns, a volunteer with Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, explained that Honey was probably kept in Taiji for a period of time while being trained to perform tricks.

“Typically, Taiji dolphins go through a training process, and that could take six months to a year, and then they get sold off as a trained dolphin,” Burns said. “And that’s where the real money is — selling a trained dolphin.”

Captive dolphin at abandoned marine park
Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project

The person who ended up buying Honey was the owner of the Inubosaki Marine Park, a dolphinarium near Tokyo, Japan. Honey spent many years at the park performing shows for paying guests, along with a few other dolphins — but these other dolphins have since died, Burns explained.

In January, the park closed its doors to the public, possibly due to failing tourism in the area, Burns explained. Yet Honey, as well as 46 penguins and hundreds of fish and reptiles, has remained at the park.

Dolphin logging in captive pool
Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project

There appears to be a staff member who still cares for Honey and the other residents, but animal welfare advocates are becoming increasingly concerned about Honey’s living conditions. Team members at Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project were able to observe her for several hours on one occasion.

“Her pool doesn’t look really clean,” Burns said. “The water condition did not look great, and it looked pretty dingy. For about two hours that we were observing her, I don’t think she moved 10 feet. She was simply just logging, laying there, a third of her body out of the water.”

Abandoned marine park in Japan
An aerial view of Inubosaki Marine Park | Ric O'Barry's Dolpin Project

In the wild, dolphins spend all of their time swimming and moving around, but Honey doesn’t have any opportunity to do this in an artificial tank. She’s also all alone — and she’s exhibiting repetitive, compulsive patterns known as stereotypic behaviors, a sign of severe captive distress, Burns said.

“She’d move her head to the left, and seems to have a slight twitch with her head,” Burns said. “It’s just not something you see in a wild dolphin whatsoever. It’s a completely odd behavior.”

Penguins at abandoned marine park
The penguins' enclosure at the abandoned marine park | Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project

Honey, who’s estimated to be about 20 years old, also doesn’t seem to have any kind of sun protection.

“She has zero shade, and she’s 100 percent exposed to the sun,” said Burns, who added that Honey appears to have skin problems as a result of this exposure.

The team at Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is working hard to make things better for Honey, but there are also several Japanese groups and individuals campaigning for her release from the park. Burns is especially encouraged by this local support — not just for Honey, but for other animals in dolphinariums around the country.

“Japan has something like 73 dolphin parks in the country, which is just a huge amount,” Burns said. “But when there are new parks, there are groups of people who are fighting it. Ten years ago, it never happened — not even once.”

“There’s definitely a bigger awareness about captive marine mammals in Japan that’s just starting to grow,” Burns said. “Going to dolphin parks is not quite as popular as it used to be.”

To help Honey you can sign this petition or make a donation to Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project.