Posted: 1 Sep. 2012
Located approximately 140 km southeast of Tokyo, Toshima is a small island in the Izu island chain of the Pacific Ocean with a perimeter about 8 km and a population of approximately 300.
In 1995 a dolphin appeared and settled down around this island. The dolphin voluntarily approached a fisherman who made his living by diving for lobsters and turban shells. It was the first encounter between this lone sociable dolphin and the human she chose to be her friend.
When, in 1998, this dolphin had a baby, “Toshima Dolphin Project” headed by the village mayor was established to protect the mother and baby dolphins. The mother was named Koko and the baby Piko. These two dolphins, Koko and Piko, were registered in the island’s ledger as official citizens of Toshima.
As of 2011, about ten dolphins have given birth to calves around Toshima, so now16 bottlenose dolphins live in the waters of Toshima Island. The leader of them is Koko.
The Toshima Dolphin Project is headed by Village Mayor Kazuhisa Umeda who is the president, with staff in Toshima and in Tokyo. The main staff members in Toshima are Masahiko Fujii and Fumio Sasahara, who carry out dolphin watching and dolphin swim programs, and Nana Takanawa, the chief researcher. Executive staff members in Tokyo are chief advisor Masato Sakano of Circlet, Kinuko Sakurai of Circlet and Sakae Hemmi of Elsa Nature Conservancy who contribute to publicity work nationally and abroad.
To ensure that these dolphins can enjoy life in the waters around Toshima for as long as they like, ‘Toshima Dolphin Project’ has been working to ensure that marine eco-tourism including dolphin swim and dolphin watching programs are compatible with dolphin conservation.
Ogasawara Island (Bonin Islands), Mikura Island and Toshima Island, where visitors can encounter wild dolphins, are all within the metropolis of Tokyo. It is our intention for “Dolphin Sanctuary Tokyo” to become an international destination for marine eco-tourism.