Death of the world’s loneliest dolphin: ‘Honey’ dies after two years by herself in a small pool

Honey the dolphin alone in the tiny pool at the Marine Park Aquarium
Honey the dolphin in the tiny pool at the Marine Park Aquarium in the city of Choshi, east of Tokyo | Image: Peace

A dolphin dubbed the ‘world’s loneliest’ after she was discovered at an abandoned Japanese aquarium has died

The animal, named Honey, died alone after spending the last two years of her life in a small pool at the Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium in the city of Choshi, east of Tokyo.

Honey and the penguins, along with hundreds of fish and reptiles, were left after the facility was closed in January 2018, citing a decline in visitors following the earthquake and Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The animals were fed by an employee but were otherwise left to fend for themselves and spend their time in dirty water.

Honey alone in her pool
Honey died alone after spending the last two years of her life in the small pool | Image: Peace

The female bottlenose dolphin was captured in 2005 near Taiji, a western port town that has become notorious for its annual dolphin hunt that was featured in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary The Cove.

Her death was reported by the US-based animal charity the Dolphin Project. The charity said on their website that they had reached out to try to rescue Honey and the other animals, but were not successful.

Discussions ended in March when it became clear that Honey was not going to survive. The animal then died in her tank on March 29, the charity said.

Honey alone in her pool
Honey alone in her pool | Image: Peace

Photos and videos taken two years ago had shown Honey floating in a tiny pool in the eerily empty facility. The Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium had an average of three stars out of five on TripAdviser when it was open, with many reviewers criticising the park’s treatment of the animals.

I’m disgusted by the captivity of these beautiful animals. They will have been driven in from out at sea with their pods, seen many of them slaughtered in front of them and then forced into venues like this. These dolphins will have been caught in Taiji, ask yourself how they got there. Then ask yourself what kind of life they live stuck in a tiny tank. These animals should be swimming wild, not swimming in disgusting water no bigger than a bath tub for people’s amusement.

TripAdviser aquarium reviewer

Although the staff are very pleasant my heart sake when I seen the conditions the Dolphins were being forced to live in. Not only was the water green in colour, it was cloudy as well

TripAdviser aquarium reviewer
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10 dolphin facts…

  1. Nearly 40 species of dolphins swim the waters of the world. Most live in shallow areas of tropical and temperate oceans, and five species live in rivers.

2. Dolphins are carnivores. Fish, squid and crustaceans are included in their list of prey. A 260-pound dolphin eats about 33 pounds of fish a day.

3. Known for their playful behaviour, dolphins are highly intelligent. They are as smart as apes, and the evolution of their larger brains is surprisingly similar to humans.

4. Dolphins are part of the family of whales that includes orcas and pilot whales (cetaceans). Killer whales are actually dolphins.

5. Dolphins are very social, living in groups that hunt and even play together. Large pods of dolphins can have 1,000 members or more.

Dolphins swimming freely in the ocean

6. Depending on the species, gestation takes nine to 17 months. After birth, dolphins are surprisingly maternal. They have been observed nestling and cuddling their young.

7. A dolphin calf nurses for up to two years. Calves stay with the mothers anywhere from three to eight years.

8. Dolphins have acute eyesight both in and out of the water. They hear frequencies 10 times the upper limit of adult humans. Their sense of touch is well-developed, but they have no sense of smell.

Dolphins swimming freely in the ocean

9. Dolphins have few natural enemies. Humans are their main threat. Pollution, fishing and hunting mean some dolphin species have an uncertain future. In 2006, the Yangtze River dolphin was named functionally extinct.

10. Because dolphins are mammals, they need to come to the surface of the water to breathe. Unlike land mammals that breathe and eat through their mouths, dolphins have separate holes for each task. Dolphins eat through their mouths and breathe through their blowholes. This prevents the dolphin from sucking up water into the lungs when hunting, reducing the risk of drowning.

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How can I help dolphins?

Can you imagine the ocean without dolphins? Neither can we. Here are some things you can do to help make the dolphins’ world safer and healthier:

1. Ditch single-use plastics

With an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste entering the oceans each year, countless marine animals ingest plastics, become entangled in them, or worse, are killed by them. To minimise your impact, notice how much plastic you are throwing away and decide where you could reduce it, like buying a steel water bottle instead of plastic ones.

A dolphin poking its head out of the water

2. Join beach or community clean ups

Ocean conservation is vital to the survival of all marine species. In order to protect wild populations and continue to return captive dolphins and whales to the ocean, we must ensure a safe and clean habitat. Clean ups can take place anywhere – you don’t have to live near a beach to partake in one. Every piece of plastic and debris that you clean up is one fewer item of trash that will find its way into a stream, then a river and finally the ocean, potentially entangling and harming marine life.

3. Avoid items and experiences that exploit marine life

Certain products contribute to the harming of ocean habitats, which in turn affect the species that live in them. For example, some cosmetic products that contain microbeads, tiny plastic beads used as an exfoliant. You could avoid purchasing jewellery made from turtle shells or coral.

Experiences such as swim with dolphins programs, dolphin therapy and dolphin shows may be promoted as “educational” or “fun,” but in reality they are forms of exploitation, dolphins suffer greatly in captivity.

4. Be mindful of what’s on your plate

Overfishing of the oceans is a tremendous problem on a global level. Fish populations around the world are rapidly being depleted due to seafood demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. Commercial fishing methods often involve gear that entangles unintended species. 

Bycatch, or the incidental capture of non-target species such as dolphins, whales, sharks, turtles and seabirds causes a staggering number of deaths each year. Familiarise yourself with sustainable seafood guides. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for over-exploited species by choosing seafood that is sustainable.

5. Be an ocean-minded pet owner

Make sure to read the labels on your pet’s food, and to extend sustainable seafood practices to your pet’s diet. Be sure to responsibly dispose of your pet’s waste and to never flush cat litter; when owners neglect to pick up after their animals, pet waste can wash into storm drains, where it becomes a pollutant in drains and waterways, eventually ending up in the ocean. Both on land and in water, the waste left by our pets can spread harmful diseases through bacteria and parasites.

A turtle swimming in the ocean

6. Contact representatives and lawmakers

Be aware of authorities and governmental figures with jurisdiction over your area. Contact them and let them know just how important the oceans are to the environment – and to us! Ask that they take action for the oceans such as banning single-use plastics, supporting renewable energy and other initiatives to ensure clean and healthy marine habitats.

7. Reduce your carbon emissions

There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint both inside and outside your home: take a bus or bike to work, adjust your thermostat, turn off lights and electronics when you’re not using them, use cold water to wash your clothes and shop local to avoid products shipped over long distances.

8. Travel the seas responsibly

When boating or embarking on a marine eco-tour, make sure that responsible practices are used. Be a whale-wise boater and keep respectful distances from marine mammals that do not negatively affect their behavior. Make sure to contain any trash, so that it does not get blown into the water. When on the beach or in the water, be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen and keep mindful distances from animals that may be nesting on beaches.

9. Ignite change in your community

Tell family, friends, co-workers, neighbours and anyone else who will listen about why the oceans are so important. Share incredible facts about dolphins and other marine species that they may not know, and inspire them to love and protect the oceans! Present the facts about dolphin captivity to anyone who may be vacationing at or near captive facilities. Contact local restaurants about offering locally sourced produce and sustainable seafood (and more vegan options!).

'Empty the Tanks' demo at Duisburg Zoo
‘Empty the Tanks’ demo at Duisburg Zoo

10. Stay informed; make your voice count

Be informed of opportunities to vote on issues related to the ocean and the environment. Stay up to date on petitions, public demonstrations and opportunities for public commenting, making sure to add your voice!

Every action we take makes a difference and collectively, the difference is huge! We must hold ourselves accountable to not only what we are comfortable doing, but capable of doing to help the environment.

Let’s all continue to care for the oceans!


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