Update 9/14/19: Dolphins are highly social beings, and living in isolation is stressful and completely unnatural for them. Both Johnny and Dewa have spent much time languishing on the surface of the water in their separate tanks at the Melka Hotel. There was nothing else for them to do. Thankfully, we now have some good news. On September 14, Femke den Haas, Dolphin Project’s Indonesian Campaign Manager organized for Dewa to be moved to Johnny’s tank, so that they could finally enjoy each other’s company. It was an unforgettable moment for our team when the two dolphins met each other.
Says Femke, “Johnny literally jumped with joy when Dewa entered his pool! He has known nothing more than isolation for all this time, and it was so emotional to see him welcoming Dewa into ‘his’ pool. Dewa is still a little confused and carefully checking out his new surroundings, while Johnny is eagerly swimming around him, jumping and challenging him to play.”
Our team continues to monitor the dolphins closely. We are hoping that they will form a close bond and become friends. This would improve the quality of their lives tremendously.
At the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, North Bali, Indonesia two dolphins – Dewa and Johnny – are still clinging to life under desperate conditions. Our goal is to make sure that they will never again be incorporated into shows or a captive dolphin swim program, and that our team in Bali will be allowed to move them out of the swimming pool the same way we did with Rocky and Rambo about a month ago.
Rocky and Rambo are now in floating sea enclosures at an outdoor captive dolphin facility in Bali, which accomplished the most important first step: getting them out of the swimming pool and back into natural sea water. Rules and regulations dictate that they stay at this facility for six months, and we are doing everything we can to keep them healthy, until we can move them to a bigger and better place. For various reasons, though, we were not allowed to bring Johnny and Dewa to that same facility. We are now rushing to build a floating sea-pen for them in a different location. Thankfully, the Forestry Department is highly supportive of our efforts.
To understand the dolphins’ plight, you must first know how they ended up at the Melka Hotel. It all began in 2002. Different people were in charge at the Forestry Department at the time, and the hotel obtained a permit from the department to operate a captive dolphin facility. In the years that followed, the country’s traveling dolphin show, which is responsible for the capture of numerous dolphins in Indonesian waters, supplied dolphins to the hotel. We do not know what year(s) the traveling dolphin show captured Johnny, Dewa, Rocky and Rambo, or when they sold the dolphins to the Melka Hotel, as no records have been made available to us.
Indonesia’s traveling dolphin show is responsible for the capture of numerous dolphins in Karimunjawa (Java Sea). Our colleagues in Indonesia estimate that 99 percent of all captive dolphins in the country are taken from this area. The traveling dolphin show hires local fishermen to carry out the job, and we will never know how many dolphins die during the crude capture operations. Explains Femke den Haas, Dolphin Project’s Indonesian Campaign Manager, “In order to avoid existing laws prohibiting the deliberate capture of dolphins, the fishermen capture the dolphins at night and then claim the dolphins were rescued from entanglement in fishing nets.” The freshly caught dolphins are sent to a holding facility. One of them, Wersut Suguni Indonesia (WSI), is in Central Java. WSI sells the dolphins to captive dolphin facilities such as the one at the Melka Hotel. WSI also operates the country’s infamous traveling dolphin show.
For now, Rocky and Rambo are stabilized in their temporary floating sea enclosures. They are together, and they are gaining weight.
Dewa and Johnny, however, are clearly suffering in the swimming pool. Dewa is on antibiotics; his white blood cell count is too high. He has several nasty cuts on the front of his body that were sustained from repeatedly jumping up against the broken tiles on the concrete edge of the swimming pool. The cuts are being treated, but they still bother him greatly. For most of the time we were there, he remained in one spot in the pool, rubbing his body against the concrete wall as if trying to eliminate discomfort. Dewa has only five teeth left in his mouth. The others were removed. Most likely, the traveling dolphin show did it to keep him from defending himself against the long lines of tourists who purchased tickets to kiss, hug and ride him in the hotel’s captive dolphin swim program.
Johnny, who is kept in a separate pool, is having it just as bad. He, too, had his teeth removed, and his gums are raw. We are told he is blind. Ric suspects that this is caused by chlorine toxicity. The pool is heavily chlorinated to offset a buildup of bacteria. Johnny spends much time in one corner of the tank, occasionally moving backward a little bit and then forward again. Back and forth, back and forth, always returning to the same spot.
Living in isolation in their separate tanks, Dewa and Johnny represent the dark side of captivity that the global dolphinarium industry does not want consumers to know about. They once swam wild and free off the coast of Indonesia. They were violently yanked out of the ocean and their lives destroyed so fun-seeking holidaymakers can spend a few minutes with them in a swimming pool, hugging, kissing and riding them, as if they are ride-on toys for people to use as they please.
The fact that the hotel used these two crippled dolphins in a dolphin-assisted therapy program for people with paralysis and other disabilities is absurd. The ones that need healing are the dolphins themselves. We hope that in time they will recover from at least some of the trauma they have been subjected to. Sadly, their chances of reuniting with their families and pod members are ruined: A dolphin without teeth cannot catch and hold on to live prey. I cannot get those images out of my mind of how Dewa and Johnny were subdued, and their teeth somehow removed to prevent them from defending themselves against humans. The thought of the excruciating pain and psychological trauma they endured during the torturous procedure is abhorrent. I don’t even try to hold back the tears as I look at them languishing, alone and broken, in their confinement.
We are doing everything that we can to alleviate Dewa and Johnny’s suffering and get them out of here. The fact that the Melka Hotel’s permit to operate a captive dolphin facility has been officially cancelled is a crucial achievement in this effort. Dewa and Johnny will need special care for the rest of their lives. Our goal is to create a special needs sanctuary for them, where they can live their lives with peace and dignity. We will continue to tell their stories to the public and remind consumers to never buy a ticket to a dolphin show or a captive dolphin swim program — the only thing that will put this heartless cruelty to an end.
Featured image: Johnny is one of two bottlenose dolphins still languishing in his tank at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, North Bali, Indonesia.