The dolphin known as Rocky was rescued on August 5th from the Melka Hotel, located in Lovina, Bali, about 10 kilometers west of Singaraja. The Central Java Forestry Department and our team transferred him and Rambo to a floating sea enclosure at a captive dolphin facility in a different part of the island. His stay here is temporary. For now, he is enjoying the healing benefits of natural sea water and gaining weight.
Rocky was captured in Indonesian waters. We’re told the country’s traveling sea circus orchestrated the capture and later sold Rocky and several other dolphins to the Melka Hotel, which for years operated a dolphin show and a captive dolphin swim program for tourists. The hotel also exploited Rambo and the other dolphins in a dolphin-assisted therapy program for people with paralysis and other critical disabilities and illnesses. Rocky once roamed the ocean wild and free. He had a family and belonged in a pod. All of that was violently stolen from him just so crowds of fun-seeking holiday makers could watch him perform circus tricks for food rewards of dead fish and exploit him as a “healer” or as a prop for photo-ops.
Dolphinariums that purchase dolphins from Indonesia’s traveling dolphin show tell their paying customers that the dolphins were “rescued,” just like the ones that purchase dolphins captured in Taiji of Japan. Those facilities will say that they rescued the dolphins from slaughter when in fact they fuel the slaughter by buying the best-looking dolphins for their facilities. The exact same system occurs here: Profits made by the traveling sea circus are fueled by dolphinariums that purchase dolphins from them.
At the Melka Hotel, trainers fed Rocky and the other dolphins a diet of dead fish cut into small pieces. There is a reason for this. Trapped in a concrete tank and unable to forage on their own, captive dolphins depend completely on their human keepers to survive. Humans decide when and how much they eat, and the dolphins know that. When the dolphins perform a command correctly during training sessions and shows, trainers reward them with food. This is how they are persuaded to perform the same abnormal behaviors over and over during rowdy, repetitive performances. Dolphins do not perform tricks or take humans for rides because they want to. They do it because they must eat to survive. Some dolphinariums take the level of food control one step further by feeding the dolphins small pieces of fish rather than whole ones for each correctly executed behavior. It extends the length of time the dolphins are hungry and obedient during a performance or a swim session and thereby accommodates more paying customers.
Since we rescued Rocky from the hotel, we have been feeding him whole fresh fish. He will never again perform tricks for food, nor will he ever again have to accommodate crowds of people who want to kiss, hug, and ride him.
Featured image: Helene O’Barry watches over Rocky as he swims in his temporary holding pen, Bali, Indonesia. Credit: DolphinProject.com