Candice Chandler, Global Animal

Uproar over the transportation of five wild-caught Taiji dolphins in a practice animal advocates call “flying coffins,” Hong Kong Airlines has been shamed into ending the business of transporting dolphins. Initiated by Sea Shepherd Hong Kong, the Humane Society, and a petition containing 6,400 signatures, the airline came under heavy pressure to explain why it participated in the horrific business of dolphin capture and transport. 

Members of Sea Shepherd confronting Hong Kong Airlines management. Photo Credit: The China Post

An angered Hong Kong Airline employee leaked the photos of the dolphins after receiving a memo from management boasting about their successful live-transport. Many people who saw the photos were provoked to speak out against the confinement of these Taiji dolphins in “flying coffins.” After appearing in The China Daily News, the story began spreading and soon members of animal rights organizations everywhere were working together to convince Hong Kong Airlines of their damaging mistake. 

On February 25, 2012, Sea Shepherd and a group of school children delivered the petition and a copy of the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove to airline management. As airline staff grew increasingly confused and impatient with Sea Shepherd’s presence, an employee exclaimed, “this is not the conventional way to do this!” Upon hearing this, Sea Shepherd coordinator Gary Stokes replied, “You’ll realize we don’t always do things the conventional way, but we get the results!”

Taiji dolphins being transported as cargo in "flying coffins." Photo Credit: China Daily/Screengrab

Advocates of these marine mammals worked together to put the airline’s reputation under fire, and on February 29, 2012, they succeeded. In a statement to animal welfare organizations, Hong Kong Airlines states that they will no longer transport live dolphins. In under a week, with the help of Sea Shepherd members and dolphin enthusiasts world-wide, a giant corporation has ceased in participating in the business of wild dolphin transportation. 

When Sea Shepherd delivered the petition to the airline on the February 25, it contained 2,400 signatures. After the message spread further, the petition swelled to more than double. With Sea Shepherd leading the way, maybe some day all dolphins will have the opportunity to live wild, free lives.

More about Sea Shepherd:

UPDATE. To see a response from Hong Kong Airlines, click the link provided: