Long uphill struggles pay off
DENPASSAR, Bali, Indonesia––Fireballs and lava are no longer flying from Mount Agung, the reputed Balinese home of the gods, but smoke, steam, and noxious gases are still rising from thermal vents, keeping most humans at a distance, Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) dog rescuers excepted.
Rabies persists in three of the eight Bali regencies, but appears close to eradication after an 11-year effort led by BAWA, now that the official control strategy centers on vaccinating dogs instead of hiring goondas to kill them.
And the last two captive dolphins in Bali, both aged and vision-impaired from years in a chlorinated hotel tank, are now swimming relatively freely in a sea pen sanctuary set up by Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project.
Abundance of animals in need
Bali remains rife with cockfighting, dogfighting, dog-eating at speakeasies catering mostly to thrill-seeking tourists, illegally captured macaques held in abusive conditions, and exhibition of wildlife allegedly doped to facilitate petting and photography.
Still, conditions for animals seem to be looking up, a little anyhow, since ANIMALS 24-7 previously reported about the Mount Agung eruptions that began on November 21, 2017, the often mismanaged response to the Bali rabies pandemic under former governor Made Mangku Pastika, and the plight of the dolphins formerly kept at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, on the north side of the island.
250+ dogs to feed in deserted villages
BAWA founder Janice Girardi reported as recently as June 10, 2019 that “Mount Agung volcano is still erupting, and BAWA still has a lot of homeless animals up there,” left behind by fleeing residents two years ago, who had little time to escape, limited transportation, and hopes of returning within a few days.
“BAWA continues to travel to the most remote areas, providing food and medication to the animals who are out fending for themselves, left behind or with owners unable to care for them,” Girardi updated in September 2019. “BAWA is feeding approximately 250 animals a day around the Mount Agung volcano,” in addition to about 300 animals at the BAWA shelters. We supply meals to dogs in the volcano area seven days a week. People in the volcano area are struggling to get their livelihoods back,” having lost their farms and businesses, “and truly cannot afford to feed the animals.”
Ashes, ashes, they all fall down
Difficult as the Mount Agung situation remains, it is improving.
On April 4, 2019, Girardi wrote, “A significant eruption sent lava and rocks spewing into the air with an ash column that rose 2,000 meters above the crater. Many surrounding villages were covered with a heavy layer of ash, rocks, sand, and mud which eroded roads and made access to the villages extremely challenging.”
Seventeen days later, Girardi continued, “On Sunday, April 21, 2019, a thick ash column rose 3,000 meters above Mount Agung. Many residents from villages on the slopes were evacuated as lava bombs exploded from the crater.”
2008 rabies outbreak not quite quelled
Matters seemed to go from bad to worse, as the news web site Coconuts Bali on May 21, 2019 reported the rabies death of Anak Agung Gede Rai Kariyawan, a 22-year-old Klungkung regency man known to friends as Ode.
His death, the first human rabies death in Bali since 2016, underscored that the 2008 rabies pandemic was still not over with. Officially, 174 people died from rabies in Bali during the first eight years of the pandemic. Thousands of dogs died from rabies; tens of thousands of dogs were killed in futile control attempts, many of the dogs having already been vaccinated by BAWA and other nonprofit organizations between the panic-driven purges.
Anak Agung Gede Rai Kariyawan “was bitten [two months earlier] by a dog who wounded his hands,” cousin Anak Agung Oka told the Jawa Pos television network. “His friends had told him to immediately get a rabies vaccine, but Ode refused because it was just a small wound. I think he was also bitten in the foot before. I’m not sure if he got a vaccine for that,” Anak Agung Oka added.
Half a million vaccinations in 2019 budget
Six months after Anak Agung Gede Rai Kariyawan was bitten, however, there have apparently been no more human deaths from rabies.
Going into 2019, Bali Provincial Animal Husbandry and Animal Health Service directors Wayan Mardiana and Ketut Diarmita told media, canine rabies remained in 105 of the 716 recognized Bali villages. The 2019 Bali budget provided for administering up to half a million canine rabies vaccinations, approximately enough to immunize every dog on the island twice over.
The current Balinese government, headed by Wayan Koster, believes Bali might be effectively rabies-free by 2020. If Bali has no more canine rabies cases during the next two years, the island will be internationally recognized as a rabies-free destination.
Last two dolphins check out from hotel
Helene O’Barry, wife of Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry, on October 9, 2019 announced that “Dolphin Project, in conjunction with our local partners, the Central Jakarta Forestry Department and the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, has just established the world’s first permanent dolphin sanctuary,” putting the Melka Excelsior Hotel “officially out of the dolphin captivity business.
“Nine weeks after we successfully confiscated two bottlenose dolphins, along with many other animals from the Melka Excelsior Hotel, the final two dolphins have now been removed from the facility,” Helene O’Barry narrated.
Rocky and Rambo, the first two dolphins to be removed from the Melka Excelsior Hotel, “were taken to Dolphin Lodge in Sanur, Bali,” Helene O’Barry said, “where they remain in quarantine. Both dolphins appear to be in good health and will be carefully evaluated for possible release back into the wild.
Dolphin sanctuary in West Bali National Park
“Johnny and Dewa, the final two dolphins at the Melka Excelsior Hotel, were not in good health. As it appeared unlikely these two dolphins would be candidates for release, the government granted us permission to build a large floating sea pen near the mouth of Bajul Bay, located in West Bali National Park, where the water is calm and crystal clear.”
The location is shielded from typhoons by most of the Bali land mass.
“Once the facility had been completed,” Helene O’Barry continued, “arrangements were made with the Forestry Department to transfer Johnny and Dewa into their new home,” accomplished on October 8, 2019.
Lincoln O’Barry, son of Ric O’Barry, and Jakarta Animal Aid Network founder Femke den Haas, became aware that the Melka Excelsior Hotel was keeping five dolphins, one of whom died before she could be rescued, Helene O’Barry said, “while filming Blood Dolphin$,” an Animal Planet television series aired in 2010.
Johnny and Dewa will need care-for-life
The campaign to free the Melka Excelsior Hotel dolphins included “a graffiti & mural art initiative, electronic billboards throughout Indonesia, digital ads at the Bali airport and a traveling educational puppet show,” Helene O’Barry recounted, and was conducted parallel to a campaign on behalf of dolphins used traveling circuses.
“Johnny is blind, possibly due to chlorine toxicity, and all of his teeth are missing,” Helene O’Barry added. “Dewa only has five teeth left, and his body is filled with bruises from jumping up against the broken tiles in his tank. All four dolphins are underweight. Although we may not be able to rehabilitate and release Johnny and Dewa, we are determined to give them lives filled with dignity, peace and quality.
“Aside from the initial construction costs,” Helene O’Barry mentioned, “the Bali Dolphin Sanctuary will have ongoing costs to care for our dolphins. Johnny and Dewa will need regular medical care, food, and staff supervision, while the facility will need to be maintained. Rocky and Rambo are also in our care, and we are covering all of their costs during the evaluation period.”