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 (JAAN) successfully confiscated the two cetaceans, named Rocky and Rambo, along with many other animals suffering in deplorable conditions. Two remaining cetaceans will be confiscated shortly thereafter.
“We first went to the Melka Hotel in 2010, having discovered it while filming Blood Dolphin$. We have been working on a campaign to get the animals out of there ever since.” ~ Lincoln O’Barry, Dolphin Project
Day after day, week after week and month after month, five bottlenose dolphins were exploited for profit at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, north Bali, Indonesia. The mammals were forced to perform under deplorable conditions, 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, 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, just days before the rescue, one of the dolphins died.
Dolphin Project is pleased to report that the majority of the wildlife has now been moved, and on their way to rehabilitation and possible release.
Dolphin Project’s 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.
The day before the animals were to be confiscated, our team of 15 people, including Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project, four veterinarians (one of which was a marine mammal expert), the Central Jakarta Forestry Department, Bali Police Department, biologists and film makers conducted a health check of all the animals. Preparations were also made for their confiscation, including microchip tagging, an important step to ensure the mammals wouldn’t be recaptured.
The following day, four trucks emptied the Melka Excelsior Hotel of wildlife. The dolphins were brought to spare sea pens at Dolphin Lodge Bali where they will begin their rehabilitation and evaluation for possible release. The other animals were brought to the Bali Zoo along with the Safari Park in Bali, the two facilities acting as halfway homes. Camp Lumba Lumba – the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of wild dolphins in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa, of which Dolphin Project and our local team built was not an option to house the dolphins, due to the distance involved. That, and the facility was designed as a quick release center, not a retirement sanctuary. As it stood, the dolphins were trucked five hours before being released into the sea pen.
Almost immediately, the team observed the dolphins’ joy as they swam in the absence of concrete walls. It was the first time they would experience the natural rhythms of the sea since they were captured, and their exhilaration was truly obvious. One of the mammals even began chasing fish!
“JAAN and the Dolphin Project have been working towards this goal for many years. And it’s finally coming together. It’s amazing what can be accomplished if you have cooperation. Using the power of ‘co-operation’, our goal is to create a world-class sanctuary in Indonesia for dolphins.” ~ Richard O’Barry
Over the next several weeks, Dolphin Project will be narrowing down possible locations for a permanent retirement center, as well as evaluating which, if any, of the rescued dolphins will be suitable for release.
“Happy sharing in the first morning of being back in the ocean for Rocky and Rambo! They had been held in a chlorinated swimming pool in North Bali for a long time, only fed little bits during seven shows a day. I was allowed to toss them fresh fish in heathy quantities. Two vets and Ric observed the dolphins’ ability to track the fish and their appetites. So far it’s looking like these two may be good candidates for ultimate release. My ethnographic fieldwork is in Fanalei, the last dolphin hunting village of the Solomons, so it was great feeling human nurturing for dolphins!” ~ Dr. Sarah Meltzoff, Professor of Anthropology, University of Miami