10-year effort gets animals out of sub-par facility
BALI, Indonesia––The Jakarta Animal Aid Network and Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project on August 7, 2019 celebrated the transfer of two dolphins and a menagerie of other animals from “deplorable conditions” at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, North Bali, Indonesia to a variety of other Bali animal exhibition sites.
“Evacuation of the animals at the Melka Excelsior Hotel started yesterday,” announced the Jakarta Animal Aid Network via Instagram, “when our team conducted a health check on all the animals,” who were kept, the posting said, “inside horrible concrete damp outdated facilities.
“We assisted the Bali forestry department to relocate all the animals,” the Jakarta Animal Aid Network said, “including the dolphins, and we continue to monitor their health and plan the best for the animals, meaning potential rehab and release back into the wild.”
“On their way to rehab & possible release”
The dolphins, promised Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project in a parallel prepared statement, are “on their way to rehabilitation and possible release.”
But that is still far from a done deal, suggests history involving the Bali and Indonesian governments and the institutions now holding the animals.
“The two dolphins who have already been moved were brought to spare sea pens at Dolphin Lodge Bali in southern Denpasar,” reported the news web site Coconuts Bali, “whereas the other animals have been brought to the Bali Zoo and the Bali Safari & Marine Park, where they will stay for the time being.”
Dolphin Lodge Bali is a swim-with-dolphins attraction offering tourists a “close encounter with dolphins, stingrays, and sharks at sea near Mertasari Beach, Sanur, Denpasar, just half an hour from the Denpassar International Airport.
The Bali Zoo and the Bali Safari & Marine Park have checkered history investigated by ANIMALS 24-7 on site, detailed in Off-exhibit secrets of troubled zoos.
Transfers are often not to ideal situations
The Dolphin Lodge Bali, Bali Zoo, and the Bali Safari & Marine Park may offer the animals better living conditions than did the Melka Excelsior Hotel, but––with due recognition that transfers of captive dolphin to ideal situations are seldom possible––the Jakarta Animal Aid Network and Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project will have to monitor the arrangements closely to be certain their expectations are fulfilled.
“They won’t be the last”
Meanwhile, exulted Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, “Two dolphins who for years were kept captive in chlorinated swimming pools and forced to interact with paying tourists are now swimming in natural seawater. And they won’t be the last.
“Dolphin Project, in conjunction with our local partners, the Central Jakarta Forestry Department and the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, successfully confiscated the two cetaceans, named Rocky and Rambo, along with many other animals. Two remaining cetaceans will be confiscated shortly.
“For over a decade,” Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project recounted, “five bottlenose dolphins at the Melka Excelsior Hotel were forced to perform, doing tricks, manhandled by tourists in swim-with-dolphins sessions, and used in so-called ‘dolphin therapy’ programs. Other animals formed a mini zoo inside the hotel, held in darkness in concrete and steel cages.
“After receiving several complaints about the Melka Excelsior Hotel,” Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project continued, “the Central Jakarta Forestry Department asked our team to investigate. Upon reviewing our report, Ms. Indra Exploitasia, director of biodiversity conservation and directorate general of natural resources and ecosystem conservation, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, called for the immediate confiscation of all the animals. These included three saltwater crocodiles, two leaf monkeys, several birds, snakes, and porcupines, along with the five bottlenose dolphins. Sadly, on August 3, 2019, just days before the rescue, one of the dolphins died.”
Indra Exploitasia [“Exploit Asia”] has used that name at least since 2010, when she was a staff scientist at Gede Pangrango National Park in West Java, Indonesia.
Recalled Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project campaign coordinator Lincoln O’Barry, son of founder Ric O’Barry, “We first went to the Melka Excelsior Hotel in 2010, having discovered it while filming Blood Dolphin$,” a three-episode Animal Planet television series first aired in August 2010.
“We have been working on a campaign to get the animals out of there ever since,” Lincoln O’Barry said.
“All captive dolphin facilities in Bali have been closed down, with the exception of Dolphin Lodge,” the Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project statement concluded.
(See also Squee’s Great Escape.)
Elaborated Coconuts Bali, “After the death of a dolphin who had been kept as an attraction at a hotel in Lovina on Saturday prompted an investigation by Bali’s conservation agency, two other dolphins, as well as a number of other animals who were kept there were finally rescued following years of allegations of animal abuse.”
Two dolphins yet to be moved are blind
Said Bali forest department official Sumarsono, who like many Balians uses only one name, “Based on their health check yesterday, only two [of the dolphins] were fit for transport. The rescue of the other two is currently postponed because they were not very healthy.”
Jakarta Animal Aid Network marine mammal coordinator Amang Raga told local media that two dolphins left temporarily at the Melka Excelsior Hotel, named Rocky and John, are blind.
This may be due to long exposure to chlorinated water.
The Melka Excelsior Hotel had possessed a conservation permit, which allowed it to house protected animals such as dolphins, Coconuts Bali reported, while offering guests “a chance to watch their daily dolphin show or to swim with dolphins in the hotel’s saltwater pools, for an additional charge. Now, the hotel stands to lose their permit, and might even face criminal charges should the agency determine that there are signs of negligence,” Bali forestry official I Ketut Catur Marbawa told local media.
But corruption, double-dealing, and suspected but rarely proven-and-convicted bribery are omnipresent risks in Indonesia and especially Bali, as Ric and Lincoln O’Barry and Jakarta Animal Aid Network founder Femke den Haas all have reason to remember.
“No traveling circus permitted to transport dolphins”
Speaking on the @america live television program, hosted by the U.S. Embassy, Indonesian forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan on February 5, 2013 told O’Barry and den Haas that “No traveling circus in Indonesia is permitted to transport live dolphins,” the Jakarta Globe reported at the time.
Hasan “called on activist groups like the Jakarta Animal Aid Network to help officials deal with the problem,” the Jakarta Globe continued.
Before Hasan addressed the @america broadcast, O’Barry showed the audience the bulletproof vest he had been asked to wear on his way into the studio.
“Outside the venue,” the Jakarta Globe reported, “visitors were heckled by a mob of men dressed in black uniforms, who claimed that the organizers did not have a permit to hold the discussion. Calling itself the Indonesian Alliance, the mob also disrupted the discussion and claimed to represent one of the circuses.”
Reminded minister of broken deal
Unintimidated, O’Barry took the opportunity to remind Hasan that the Jakarta Animal Aid Network and Earth Island Institute, under whose umbrella the Dolphin Project operated from 2006 to 2014, had in October 2010 signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian forestry ministry to rehabilitate and release dolphins confiscated from illegal exhibitors and traffickers.
In fulfillment of the memorandum of understanding, O’Barry had overseen the construction of a sea pen at Karimun Jawa for the purpose of rehabilitating confiscated dolphins to be released.
The Indonesian forestry ministry balked, however, at actually impounding any of the estimated six dozen dolphins then believed to be in illegal traveling shows.
An @america audience member told Hasan that “he had seen a dolphin show at a circus in Bantul, Yogyakarta, and had been told by the circus officials that they obtained their permit from the Forestry Ministry,” the Jakarta Globe recounted.
“You just tell me where this circus is, and if need be, I’ll go there myself and break it up,” Hasan said.
Appearing to keep his promise, Hasan flew to Bali on February 13, 2013 to see Wayan and Made, two dolphins who were kept without permits at the Akame Restaurant in Benoa Harbor. Reportedly calling the facilities “cruel and unacceptable,” Hasan pledged to have the dolphins removed to the Karimun Jawa sea pen.
“For ten days following this public announcement,” O’Barry’s son Lincoln O’Barry recounted, “the Akame Restaurant continued to hold dolphin shows. No subsequent action was taken, leading to a local protest at the site on February 22, 2013.”
Then the dolphins disappeared, “understood to be headed back to the traveling circus in Weleri, Central Java,” from which the dolphins were believed to have been rented or purchased, Lincoln O’Barry told ANIMALS 24-7 a few days afterward.
More captive dolphins brought to Bali
Just over a year later, in July 2014, reported Ni Komang Erviani of the Jakarta Post, a beachfront attraction in Keramas, Gianyar regency, Bali, called Wake Bali Resto & Dolphin opened both a dolphin show and a swim-with-dolphins program, featuring four young dolphins in a pool smaller than would be legal in the U.S. for even one dolphin.
“The four dolphins were sent by truck from Semarang in Central Java to Keramas in Bali. This trip took around 30 hours overland and by ferry,” den Haas told Ni Komang Erviani.
“From investigations conducted by the Jakarta Animal Aid Network and the Bali Animal Welfare Association, den Haas said that the facility staff confessed that they had obtained the dolphins from a company in central Java, Wersut Seguni Indonesia, the same company that supplied the dolphins to Akame Restaurant,” Ni Komang Erviani continued.
“Captured in the Java Sea”
“The dolphins were captured in the Java Sea, which is illegal, yet the company that bought them from fishermen claimed they were rescued after being entangled in fishing nets,” den Haas said.
Den Haas that the same company had supplied the dolphins kept at the Melka Excelsion Hotel and Taman Safari Indonesia in Bogor, owned by the same family as the Bali Safari & Marine Park.
The four dolphins remained at Wake Bali Resto & Dolphin for nearly five years.
“In March 2018,” den Haas posted to the Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project web site, “our team on the ground photographed a dolphin at Wake Bali whose teeth had been filed down to blunt pegs. It’s quite likely that in order to prevent patrons from being accidentally injured, the dolphin’s teeth were mechanically blunted. The owners of Wake Bali stated the dolphin lost its teeth due to age-related changes – which was entirely false.”
Finally, on April 13, 2019, den Haas posted, “The pools are empty at Wake Bali Dolphin!” The Bali forest department “withdrew its permits after protesters successfully brought awareness to the poor conditions in which dolphins suffered,” den Haas wrote.
“The four dolphins at Wake went back to the traveling dolphin show when Wake was closed,” Ric O’Barry told ANIMALS 24-7. “Wake and the owners of the traveling dolphins show were partners. They split the profits taken in at Wake.
“I believe the traveling dolphin show owned 27 dolphins including the Wake four,” O’Barry added. “The numbers change because it such an abusive operation the mortality changes and they just buy more from the fishermen.”
Affirmed den Haas, The dolphins were taken to the travel show headquarters in Central Java, as that’s where the dolphins came from. The owner of the travel show is the supplier of all captive dolphins in Indonesia.”