for National Geographic News
The capture of an unusual dolphin with an extra set of fins is shedding light on a controversial hunting technique in Japan.
The bottlenose dolphin was captured alive on October 28 during Japan's annual dolphin "drive hunt."
During the hunt, fishers use boats and loud noises to herd hundreds of dolphins into shallow bays. There, many are corralled into nets and killed. Others are kept live and sold to aquariums, according to conservationists.
"I think it's actually wonderful that this animal has come to light now," Diana Reiss, a senior research scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City, said in an interview for this week's National Geographic News podcast.
"Not only is it interesting in terms of our science, but I think it will shed light on this really arcane and very inhumane practice that we really must bring to an end."
Scientists said the four-limbed dolphin may be an evolutionary throwback to a time when marine mammal ancestors walked on land.
(Related Story: "Dolphin With Four Fins May Prove Terrestrial Origins" [November 8, 2006].)
But the hunt itself, according to conservationists and animal rights activists, is cruel to dolphins, which are considered intelligent and socially complex marine mammals.
Reiss is a leading voice in the campaign to halt the drive hunt.
"This practice has been going on for hundreds of years, but it has gotten even worse recently," she said.
Conservationists estimate more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises will be killed during the hunt, which began in September and runs until April.
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