A heartbreaking video of a dolphin mother desperately trying to wrestle her calf back from underwater hunters has emerged. The footage, shot close to Taiji in Japan, shows poachers trying to prise a baby dolphin from its family.

Five divers can be seen grabbing the infant dolphin and jerking it towards a boat where it is eventually hauled into a net. Throughout their sickening heist, a larger dolphin, presumed to be the mother, swims alongside them and tries to free the baby.

Other dolphins try to help the mother, thrashing their tails at the divers. But the humans are too strong: they rip the terrified calf from its heartbroken family.

Activists allege that the stolen baby will be sold to an aquarium along with several others from a superpod of 300 that were trapped off Japanese coast The incident was filmed by Liz Carter, a volunteer with Blue Cove Days. Carter can be heard sobbing behind the camera as she films the ordeal.

Carter said: "One hundred dolphins were stolen, some died from the process. Juveniles ripped from their mothers ... [and] the mother and child are desperately trying to stay together.

"They're destined for marine parks and aquariums. The price of a ticket and a day trip out to a marine park isn't worth this."