A pod of dolphins escaped from a tourist attraction in Japan after a net keeping them inside the facility was allegedly cut.
The pod were freed from the Dolphin Base, a captive dolphin facility in Taiji, western Japan, a town known for it controversial annual hunt of the marine mammals.
Three of the bottlenose dolphins returned to the centre on their own, while the other member of the pod remains free just outside of the enclosure.
In a blog post, translated by the BBC, the facility said it was “furious” that someone with “no expert knowledge had callously exposed the dolphins to danger”.
“We are enraged by the heinous act which can easily lead to the dolphins dying,” they wrote.
“They think that once out of their pen, dolphins will swim far away but that is not true. Dolphins will not stray far and they will not leave their group.”
During the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, fishermen trap the dolphins inTaiji Cove before either killing them for meat or selling them into captivity.
In 2009, the controversial practice was highlighted in Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, which featured Ric O’Barry, who has spent 45 years campaigning to free dolphins from captivity.
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project said in response to the incident: “While we are against keeping dolphins in captivity, we do not condone illegal behaviour.
“Our Cove Monitors operate fully within Japanese law, documenting Taiji’s dolphin drive hunts for the Japanese people and the rest of the world to see – including the horrific capture methods and continued slaughters.”
The statement added: “Our global campaigns are run with the utmost respect for local laws, with our ultimate goal to stop the abuse of dolphins. It is our hope that Taiji will ultimately turn into a tourist destination, where no dolphins are hunted or captured for display.”
Police are currently investigating the incident. It is unclear if the escaped dolphins were wild or born in captivity.
Last year, Inky the octopus made an amazing escape to freedom from an aquarium tank.