Teen dolphin activist talks from Japan's infamous Cove

As hundreds marched in Auckland and Wellington today to support international Anti-Whaling Day, 16-year-old Elora Malama West was in Japan’s Taiji, filming fishermen gearing up for the annual dolphin slaughter – 3news.co.nz caught up with Elora.  

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By Chris Whitworth

Sixteen-year-old Elora Malama West says there is a trick to documenting dolphin slaughter in Japan’s Taiji: Don’t let the gore get to you.

“What you kind of have to do is put yourself in a state of mind where you’re aware of what’s going on, but you’re not really paying attention,” she says.

The American high school student has been in Japan since September filming the annual slaughter, along with her father Scott West, and his Sea Shepherd colleagues.

Until the trip she had never witnessed a dolphin slaughter with her own eyes.

Elora admits her first experience was unnerving, and she struggled to keep her camera, and emotions, stable.    

“My mouth was extremely bloody because I was just biting my bottom lip saying ‘don’t do it, don’t cry, don’t do this’.

“Its extremely rough, and you don’t want to show them [the fishermen] that they’re getting to you at all, because that’s what they want and they find that kind of funny.”

Elora plans to use her footage for part of a high school project, but her conservation vision stretches far beyond the classroom.

“I’m finding that this is kind of a calling of mine.

“My parents always told us our entire lives we need to treat animals with respect.”  

She says the tipping point was seeing documentaries Sharkwater and The Cove.

A year later, Elora is now working alongside Ric O’Barry, the activist and former dolphin trainer central to The Cove. She first met Mr O’Barry earlier this year but never imagined she would one day join him on a trip. 

“I was sort of star struck, I was like ‘oh my god I’m meeting Ric O’Barry’, and I didn’t know that three months later I’d be standing at the Cove with him.”

Elora has no time for idolization while she’s in Taiji. The mood in the village is tense at the best of times, but she says it largely depends on whether or not it is a “slaughter day”.

The crew can legally be there and film, but the fishermen do not appreciate their presence - and are not shy about showing it.

“They have confronted us but they’ve never touched us. I’ve had people screaming at us and throwing signs towards us and they’ll put their hands in your face - but they won’t touch you.”

“But that could change in a dime, so we’re very cautious here.”

The fishermen are well aware of the group’s constant surveillance and are suspicious. Elora says the fishermen often film them in return, but the exposure is of no concern to her team.   

“We don’t really care, whatever they’re posting [online]. I mean sure, let them show pictures of the Cove, let them see that a 16-year-old girl is standing here against them.”

A stand she intends to make until her visa runs out in December. After that it’s back to school, where she will present an assignment guaranteed to shock her classmates.

3 News

source: newshub archive