Johnny and Dewa, while potentially not suitable candidates for release, have a permanent “forever home” where they can retire in peace and dignity.
Dolphin Project, in conjunction with our local partners, the Central Jakarta Forestry Department and the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) has just established the world’s first permanent dolphin sanctuary.
And the Melka Hotel is 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 in Bali, Indonesia, the final two dolphins have now been removed from the facility.
Rocky and Rambo were first confiscated from a small and filthy swimming pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, north Bali in August 2019. They were taken to Dolphin Lodge in Sanur, Bali, where they remain in quarantine. The healing process began almost immediately for both dolphins as soon as they touched down into natural seawater. Both dolphins appear to be in good health and will be carefully evaluated for possible release back into the wild.
Johnny and Dewa, the final two dolphins at the Melka Hotel were not in good health. As it appeared unlikely these two dolphins would be candidates for release, during the last several weeks our team worked on the construction of a permanent sanctuary. 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. Once the facility had been completed, arrangements were made with the Forestry Department to transfer Johnny and Dewa into their new home.
From a bleak and barren tank into natural seawater with plenty of space to swim and play ~ this is what life now looks like for Johnny and Dewa.
On October 8, our team consisting of Dolphin Project crew members, JAAN crew members, a JAAN veterinarian, and several Forestry Department staff members gathered at the Melka Hotel. Dolphin trainers who worked at the hotel previously were also present to help with the transport. Once the dolphins were loaded into transport boxes, they were driven on a two-hour truck ride, followed by a short boat ride to the mouth of the bay. Dewa was the first to arrive at the sanctuary. It was an amazing movement when, at 11:48 a.m., he was introduced to real ocean water for the first time since his capture. At 12:00 p.m., Johnny joined him in the sea pen, and in the moments that followed, the two dolphins could be seen exploring their new surroundings. They were hungry after the journey, and ate the fresh fish we gave them.
For months, we tried to ease their suffering while they were languishing at the Melka Hotel, monitoring them and keeping them company. It was amazing to see them swimming, diving and checking things out in the sea pen. In the days to come, we expect Johnny and Dewa to investigate every inch of the sea pen as they settle into their new home. Never will they experience the barren concrete walls of a man made tank again.
Lincoln O’Barry and Femke den Haas first discovered the facility ten years ago while filming Blood Dolphin$. We launched our Free Bali Dolphins campaign to bring awareness to the horrific traveling dolphin circuses, and the suffering captive dolphins endure under the guise of entertainment. Our team on the ground has been working for years to put an end to dolphin exploitation across Indonesia. As part of our Free Bali Dolphins campaign, we launched a major initiative to close these exploitative operations including a graffiti & mural art initiative, electronic billboards throughout Indonesia, digital ads at the Bali airport and a traveling educational puppet show. From advocating against the notorious traveling circuses to educating on the importance of marine conservation to enlightening tourists on the suffering of captive dolphins, we remain committed to their welfare and protection.
With the closure of the dolphin exhibit at the Melka Hotel, things have changed for Johnny, Dewa, Rambo and Rocky. They will never again have to perform tricks for food rewards of dead fish, or experience the cramped living conditions of barren tanks. These dolphins have suffered tremendous cruelty during their time in captivity. Johnny is blind, possibly due to chlorine toxicity, and all of his teeth are missing. 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.
So many bad things happen to dolphins all over the world every day, and stopping the cruelty seems like an overwhelming task at times. We can understand why people sometimes ask us what keeps us going. The answer is simple: a magical moment such as the one we witnessed today when Dewa and Johnny experienced the ocean for the first time in years gives us renewed energy to keep fighting for dolphins. Just a few hours ago, they were surrounded by barren concrete walls on all sides. They were incarcerated in an artificial world of concrete and spent their days listening to the monotonous sounds of water pumps, filtration systems, music, and humans. They could only swim a few feet before a wall stopped them. They had nothing to explore and nowhere to go to. Now Johnny and Dewa are surrounded by ocean on all sides. As residents of the world’s first permanent sanctuary for dolphins, they now hear the sounds of waves and feel the tug of currents. They breathe real ocean air and will once again be able to use their sonar. The healing process has begun.
Aside from the initial construction costs, 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. You can help with our overhead costs and ensure that the dolphins in our care will live the remainder of their lives in peace and dignity by making a donation to support our Bali Dolphin Sanctuary!
Featured image: Femke den Haas and team lower Dewa into the dolphin sanctuary pen, Bali, Indonesia. Credit: DolphinProject.com