A solitary bottlenose dolphin swims in a small pool enclosed by a rusty railing. Not far away, dust-covered penguins wander over chunks of concrete and other debris. This has been life at Japan's Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium since January when its owner abandoned it, citing a decline in visitors. Employees have reportedly been feeding the remaining animals—Honey the dolphin, 46 penguins, and hundreds of fish and reptiles, per Reuters—but animal rights activists and regular citizens who've penned 1,400 letters to the town of Choshi are furious. "I am worried that Honey will die if this situation continues," the head of aquarium issues at the Animal Rights Centre Japan tells the Guardian, noting the dolphin has "been repeating the same movements … and is showing definite signs of stress."
Officials with the Chiba Prefecture's hygiene control division visited the aquarium this week and found the animals to be healthy, with Honey recovering well from a sunburn, per CNN. A prefecture rep says the private owner, Inubosaki Marine Park, is working to find them a new home. Animal Rights Centre Japan hopes Honey, who's been at the aquarium since 2005, can be moved to a sanctuary, fearing recapture if she's returned to her original home off Taiji, the Pacific coast town known for its annual dolphin slaughter. But local media previously reported that transfer negotiations had abruptly ended, per the Guardian. "They have a responsibility to explain what they intend to do with Honey and the other animals," one activist says. Others are elevating the case on social media using #SaveHoney. (Read more aquarium stories.)