Four dolphins escaped from a recreational center in Taiji, Japan, the town that’s home to the yearly horrifying dolphin hunts. The pod swam outside their pen at DolphinBase after nets surrounding their seaside enclosure were slashed. Three animals returned to the facility but one is still out in the wild.

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DolphinBase, a facility that offers tourists the opportunity to swim with dolphins and watch them perform, contained the bottlenose dolphins in a pen divided from the ocean with nets, where they’d been kept and trained for over six months. The dolphins are about three to five years old. Police say they do not yet know who cut the nets, allowing the animals to escape.

Related: The first dolphins have been slaughtered in this year’s annual Taiji hunt

In a blog post translated by the BBC, DolphinBase said, “We are enraged by this heinous act which can easily lead to the dolphins dying. 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.” Three of the dolphins did swim back into the pen; the fourth is “scared” and confused about how to get back inside using the new entrance, according to DolphinBase, although it is close by.

When asked by the BBC if the dolphins were bred in captivity or wild, the facility would not respond.

Activist organization Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, which monitors the Taiji cove, said in a statement, “While we are against keeping dolphins in captivity, we do not condone illegal behavior…It is our hope that Taiji will ultimately turn into a tourist destination, where no dolphins are hunted or captured for display.”

The controversial Taiji dolphin hunt happens every single year between September and March. Hundreds of dolphins are captured, and then either slaughtered for their meat or sold to aquariums.

Via the BBC

Images via FollowYour Nose on Flickr and DolphinBase