2021: A Year in Review
In three months, it will be two full years since the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed global havoc. No one could have imagined the disruption to our normal day-to-day activities. During this time, as Dolphin Project has done for over 50 years, we have continued protecting dolphins.
As many of you might have heard, since 2019, we have had three rescued dolphins in our care. Captured from the wild, they were exploited in traveling circuses before used in swim-with-dolphins programs. Never again will they have to interact with paying tourists in noxious, chlorinated water, just to get fed. Never again will they be exploited for the sake of “entertainment”. Now, Johnny’s, Rocky’s and Rambo’s days are filled with the thrill of hunting live fish, and exploring the crystal clear waters of their sea pen, all while being fully at ease with who they are – dolphins, not circus caricatures.
All through the world (and certainly across the United States), grocery stores are being faced with product shortages. It does makes one feel vulnerable, not knowing whether the foods we are accustomed to purchasing will be available. I cannot help thinking of the dolphins held captive in concrete tanks, wholly dependent on their handlers for their next meal. And, as many restrictions involving movement and mobility are being reimposed, I cannot help feeling claustrophobic not only for myself, but for the dolphins who have no way out of their miserable incarceration.
That’s why Dolphin Project has been spreading awareness about the plight of captive dolphins across the globe. From establishing the Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center, the first ever permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility for formerly performing dolphins, to documenting the annual dolphin slaughter and captive selection in Taiji, Japan, to advising grassroots activists on how to bring about positive change in their communities, to providing food and other supplies to local people in need.
But none of this would be possible without your unwavering support. From graciously committing to recurring donations, where monies are used to help alleviate the suffering of previously-captive dolphins, to sharing social media posts, to educating others on the plight of suffering dolphins, to purchasing a t-shirt or other Dolphin Project-branded merchandise (now 15% off until the end of the year), and wearing your support, each and every action you take is greatly appreciated and urgently needed. Looking for a gift that truly gives? By Adopting a Dolphin, you can enjoy easy gift giving, while helping to ensure Johnny, Rocky and Rambo continue to receive 24/7 round-the-clock care. With no shipping fees, duties or potential supply shortages, giving a digital gift is a great option. Adopt one, or adopt all three!
On behalf of everyone at Dolphin Project, I sincerely hope that the suffering endured by so many as a result of the ongoing pandemic will provide an opportunity to re-evaluate our relationships, not only with others, but with other species, of who we share this planet.
Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director, Dolphin Project
Johnny, Rocky and Rambo Thrive at the Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center, West Bali, Indonesia
The Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center in Banyuwedang Bay, West Bali, Indonesia is the first ever permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility for formerly performing dolphins. In September 2019, BKSDA Bali Forestry Department and the Ministry of Forestry initiated the idea. Working with local partners Jakarta Animal Aid Network to supply the manpower and Dolphin Project to provide the financial support and supervision, the Umah Lumba Center was built. (“Umah Lumba” means “dolphins” in Balinese.)
Presently, we have three dolphins in our care: Johnny, Rocky and Rambo. Captured in the Java Sea, the dolphins, for several years, were incarcerated in a shallow, heavily chlorinated swimming pool in North Bali. Since their relocation to the Umah Lumba Center, they have benefited from a robust rehabilitation program and continue to undergo regular evaluation towards a possible release. The dolphins receive 24/7 round-the-clock care. We have a full-time staff veterinarian, security guards and caregivers. The center is a true rehabilitation, release and retirement facility, where our team is committed to making the dolphins’ lives as natural and independent as possible.
The Search Continues for a European Dolphin Sanctuary Location
As restrictions from the pandemic continue to negatively impact profits from marine parks and aquariums, Dolphin Project has been preparing for the possibility of additional dolphins needing retirement and care. As such, not only have we expanded our facilities at the Umah Lumba Center, but we are continuing to narrow down a location for a European Dolphin Sanctuary, based on the Bali model.
Shining a Light on the Dolphin Hunts in Taiji, Japan
Every year from September through March, a notoriously cruel hunt of some of the most sentient creatures on the planet takes place in Taiji, Japan, made famous by the 2009 Academy award-winning movie “The Cove”. During this period, dolphin hunters, “drive” the mammals to their capture or deaths via means of physical violence and acoustic torture. Dolphin Project is the only organization to have been on the ground consistently since 2003.
Once again for this season, Dolphin Project is collaborating with Life Investigation Agency (LIA), a Japanese NGO headed up by Ren Yabuki, dedicated to investigating, exposing and campaigning against the abuse of animals. We are also working alongside other Japanese-based volunteers, activists and NGO’s. Program goals are to document the hunts in Taiji, along with expanding anti-captivity educational programs throughout Japan. This year, there was the largest showing of Japanese activists during events held on Japan Dolphins Day, both in Taiji and in local towns.
Community Outreach in Bali, Indonesia
In addition to caring for the dolphins at the Umah Lumba Center, Dolphin Project works to provide community aid for local people and animals.
We continue to help with the care of family pets, and this year have spayed or neutered 50 cats and 19 dogs.
Due to food insecurities and financial stress as a result of ongoing lockdowns, Dolphin Project has committed to purchasing groceries including rice and other goods to 17 financially-challenged families every three months.
When an elephant riding facility in Bali went bankrupt, we financially took care of eight elephants and three sun bears.
Dolphin Project helped fund a Marine Police post.
And finally, in efforts to be 100% carbon neutral, Dolphin Project is planting trees to offset carbon emissions. We have planted a nursery, including 5000 mangrove trees and 1200 coconut trees. In early 2022, we plan to have one hectare of land for fruit trees and other hardwood tree species.
Education = Empowerment!
At the Umah Lumba Education Center in West Bali, our team continues to educate students on the importance of marine conservation, and of leaving wildlife wild. Teaching future generations about protecting the oceans is vital for a brighter future for us all. At present, 47 students attend our school, including 17 elementary school students, 11 junior high school students and 19 senior high school students.
In addition, as part of our efforts to provide educational support to educators, parents and community advocates, Dolphin Project has a number of study guides available to download for free on our website.
#FreeBaliDolphins Mural Campaign
What better way to raise awareness about captive dolphins than through art! In collaboration with local and visiting street artists, Dolphin Project continues to spread awareness about dolphin captivity through a grassroots campaign that supports community arts. These commissioned images provide a strong reminder to tourists and locals alike that dolphins belong in the sea, not in circuses, tanks or petting pools.
Grant Program for Tuition Assistance
Dolphin Project has commenced a yearly grant program, where tuition funds may be contributed to individuals studying dolphins and/or ocean conservation. Our first recipient was Leanne Rosser, a U.K. resident whose goal was to study dolphins by embarking on a master’s degree, with the goal of making a difference in the world of whale and dolphin conservation.
Dolphin Project Participates in Two Major Film Projects
Have you watched “Seaspiracy“? Slavery, taxes, fraud, pandemics, and murder. While it may sound like the conspiracy plot of the next big Hollywood hit, “Seaspiracy,” has proven so shocking to many, that it has propelled itself into one of the top five most-viewed movies currently on Netflix, and its message continues to spread. Released by ‘Disrupt Studios’ and directed by Ali Tabrizi, “Seaspiracy” follows Tabrizi as he makes his first foray into the rabbit hole of the fishing industry. What follows is an exposé of corruption – both within the industry and certain charities whose programs are funded by the public. These campaigns are ineffective, corrupt, and refuse to acknowledge the issue at hand, Tabrizi claims. The documentary suggests the one common denominator shared by them all is money.
“Inside Japan’s Dolphin Trade” by VICE World News documents Taiji’s global dolphin trade, from a well-balanced perspective of both the fishermen and the activists. What resulted is one of the most important films to highlight the Taiji dolphin hunts since the 2009 Academy award-winning documentary “The Cove”. The team spoke with Ren Yabuki, director of Life Investigation Agency, with whom Dolphin Project is collaborating. He shared the horrors of what he witnessed, including the routine harassment, suffering and abuse of several species of dolphins, including the very young and the very old, the slaughter of dolphin calves and their separation from their mothers, the violent captive selection process, and the decimation of entire pods of dolphins.
Rapid Response Team Assists Stranded Dolphins
When Dolphin Project’s Indonesia team received news that a mass stranding of pilot whales had taken place far east of Java island, on the northeastern Indonesian island of Madura, we immediately sprung into action. Over the next five days, together with the Forestry Department Authorities of East Java, and the East Java government, our team worked hard in the field. Tragically, out of the 53 individuals that stranded, only one pilot whale was returned to sea. While the whale did not re-strand during the time our team was on the ground, it’s impossible to know whether the mammal survived, after losing its entire pod.
Earlier in the year, our team assisted and coordinated the relocation and release of a Risso’s dolphin that had stranded on Bali’s west coast. Fortunately, the veterinary team determined that the mammal wasn’t badly wounded, and would be releasable. Due to high waves and rough seas, the dolphin was lifted inside a truck and driven 22 kilometers to a nearby harbor. From there, the dolphin was boated into deep water and released without incident.
Empty the Tanks Worldwide Event
In May, people across the world spent the day advocating on behalf of captive cetaceans. While most public events were cancelled, some events were held in-person. Empty the Tanks gives a platform to activists around the world to stand together – virtually, or in person – and peacefully advocate for an end to dolphin and whale captivity.
Global Beach Cleanup
In June, people across the world participated in our annual Global Beach Cleanup event. From coastal to inland initiatives, every piece of plastic and debris that was picked up is one fewer item of trash that can find its way into a waterway and potentially entangle and harm marine life.
Saving dolphins and whales is about more than simply ending the captivity trade. Dolphin Project believes that ocean conservation is just as vital to the survival of all cetaceans. In order to protect wild populations and return captive marine mammals to the ocean, we must ensure a safe and clean habitat for dolphins, whales, and all ocean creatures.
Dolphin Defender Month
This September, Dolphin Project launched the first ever Dolphin Defender Month. To help create awareness of Japan’s annual dolphin hunts and their connection to the captivity industry, people from around the world were encouraged to take action against the dolphin slaughters and captures in Taiji. As well, this year marked the return of in-person events, including protests at aquariums and Japanese consulates and embassies.
We Remember Elizabeth Batt
She was known by some as the “BattWoman” – superhuman warrior for all dolphins and other whales across the globe. And to the corporations she fearlessly took on, as Elizabeth M. Batt. To us, she was a trusted and cherished member of the Dolphin Project family, whose passing on May 25, 2021 left us all devastated.
Elizabeth’s journalistic integrity shone in the various pieces she wrote about marine mammal captivity. Instead of shying away from controversial issues, she faced them head-on with a singular goal, to “…evaluate marine mammal captivity and examine both the science of it combined with the evolution of public thinking…using facts, data, and opinion” (summarizing her own words). Elizabeth provided her readers with the tools to expand our knowledge about dolphin and whale captivity, and to guide us towards our own critical thinking. She is survived by her three children, Daniel, Melissa and Stefan, of whom she was extremely proud.
Dolphin Project Turns 51!
April 22 marked Dolphin Project’s 51st anniversary. Our mission today remains the same as it did when I founded Dolphin Project back in 1970: Let’s protect dolphins together!