Campaigners have described the mass slaughter of dolphins in Japan as "brutal and heartbreaking" after a dolphin was pictured comforting her pod before she was killed.
Images showed fishermen trapping several pilot whales in a net after hunting them for hours in the western Japanese town of Taiji, on September 10.
The “matriarch dolphin” was then separated from the nursery pod and killed, according to the Dolphin Project.
Pilot whales are one of the largest species of oceanic dolphin.
The conservation group said: “The matriarch was killed and alone, she was taken to the butcher house.
“We could see her dead body floating on the surface as the boat prepared to take her away.”
She was seen swimming around the nursery pod after being separated with nets.
After she was killed hunters took eight of the whales into captivity and slaughtered the rest, Dolphin Project reported.
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Taiji is known for hunts that involve driving hundreds of dolphins into a cove and clubbing them to death.
The town became notorious after the 2009 documentary “The Cove” showed this practice.
The dolphins are no longer clubbed to death, but a metal rod is stabbed into the back of their neck and they bleed and suffocate.
Court hearings to stop dolphin hunting began in Taiji last Friday, with activists arguing the practice violated animal protection laws due to their “extreme cruelty”.
Animal welfare charity Action for Dolphins teamed up with marine activist Ren Yabuki and a local man to take on the fishermen.
The plaintiffs said in a summary of their legal action: “We also allege that the fishermen violate the legal conditions of their hunting permit because they catch more dolphins than is allowed.”
Japan, which for decades conducted what it called scientific research whaling as a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), announced in December that it would withdraw from the organisation and resume commercial whaling.