Tourists belong in hotels. Not dolphins. As unbelievable as this sounds, the infamous Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, north Bali, Indonesia still keeps dolphins captive.
Five bottlenose dolphins – claimed to be “rescues” from the horrific traveling circus – were in fact, purchased from the circus’s owner, brought to Bali and dumped inside a pool to entertain paying patrons.
Instead of roaming wild and free in their home range, surrounded by pod members from which to grow and learn, these mammals have been relegated to a life of show business, used in both Melka’s swim-with-dolphins programs and in daily performances.
The hotel is in very poor condition, with many building empty and crumbling. In the back area, other animals are kept in horrid, cramped conditions. How does such an establishment keep running, you might wonder? Are the dolphins and other animals being adequately nourished?
Dolphin Project’s team on the ground in Indonesia sought to find answers to these concerns, and learned that the dolphins are fed, but at a minimum, in order that they keep “motivated” to perform and interact with people.
The hotel’s target audience are foreigners, especially people from Russia who book online to visit the facility and participate in programs designed for autistic children. Such “dolphin therapy” programs have become a lucrative business over the past few years and present a serious threat to the welfare of dolphins in that it creates further captures, trade, and captive breeding of dolphins worldwide. Furthermore, it takes advantage of desperate and vulnerable parents who readily pay large sums of money to give their ill or disabled children what the billion-dollar dolphin captivity industry advertises as a life-enhancing dolphin experience.
Rehabilitation is possible for these dolphins. In 2011 Dolphin Project, in partnership with local organization JAAN, constructed the world’s first permanent facility to dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of wild dolphins in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa. Named Camp Lumba Lumba (lumba being the Indonesian word for dolphin), the rehabilitation center addresses the need for effective enforcement mechanisms of a law banning wild dolphin captures in Indonesia.
The good news is that visitors are not being fooled. Many have complained about the poor conditions of the facility and most important, of the animals’ living conditions. While no visible action has been taken, our team will continue to fight on behalf of these mammals exploited for no other reason other than greed.