The rumor that took hold of the enviro and animal welfare world this weekend claimed that the albino dolphin — dubbed "Angel" by activists after it was captured in the just-ended dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan — had died. The Taiji Whale Museum, an aquarium that's held Angel in the two months since her capture disputed the claim, issuing a statement that the dolphin was still alive, and fine.
Not content to take the museum's word for it, Ric O'Barry, founder of the Dolphin Project who was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove," managed to sneak into the museum Sunday undercover and capture photos and footage of the dolphin. The good news: Angel is indeed alive, and was seen eating from trainers, seems to be of average weight, and in no sign of poor health. O'Barry also speculated that while the museum had claimed she was deaf and blind, she appeared to have some sight after all (he couldn't assess whether she had any hearing). That's it for the good news.
O'Barry, writing on his Dolphin Project blog, says that Angel has dark patches on both sides of her midsection, which he speculates were bruises possibly caused by "rough handling during capture." The albino dolphin is in "a tiny overcrowded tank" with four striped dolphins and one spotted dolphin, all caught in the drive hunts, so all "have a high level of stress, having lost their freedom and their pod-mates." And Angel appears to be the subject of steady harassment from her other dolphins:
...after sustained observation, it becomes obvious that she is constantly harassed and bullied by two male striped dolphin. ... She never initiates contact with any of the others. She seems to try to avoid them, but that is almost impossible in the small space she is forced to live in.
She can't seem to find any peace in this abusive environment. There is no place she can go to get away from the two males.
O'Barry captured video of the bullied Angel, below. He had to don a hat, glasses and surgical mask to sneak into the museum, which reportedly is not allowing Westerners in to see its dolphins out of fear of negative publicity. Be sure to read O'Barry's full account.