Our cover image of Rambo and Johnny swimming amidst several live fish in the waters of the Bali Dolphin Sanctuary might appear a little alien. After all, we have been conditioned to see dolphins in tanks, devoid of any stimulation, or anything resembling nature. That’s because dolphins recruited for captivity are trained to look up — in fact, their survival depends on it. Everything in a dolphin’s captive existence is unnatural, and tanks are deliberately left barren. Compare this to the healing waters of the sanctuary, where our three rescued dolphins continue to heal, thrive and re-learn some of the skills suppressed during their time spent as entertainers in the pools at the Melka Excelsior Hotel.
While COVID-19 ravages the planet, our team has taken no risks. We have stayed together caring for the dolphins, spending much time observing them and introducing live fish. We work on the dolphins’ schedules, not ours, and it wasn’t until April 2020 that our team of veterinarians and caregivers felt the dolphins were ready for live fish introduction. Prior to this, the mammals were still regaining their both their weight and their health.
It’s amazing to watch their progress as they play and interact with one another, spending long periods of time deep in the sea, exploring the entire seapen. And, with time and patience, we are introducing them to their natural diet. Rambo is a sensitive male who needs time to adapt to new changes. Rocky, on the other hand, eagerly jumps into his next adventure, always willing to explore new things. Johnny? Well, he’s practically fearless, always open to trying new things and exploring his surroundings.
For Rambo, the first sessions of live fish feedings ended up in frustration. We fed him whole, live fish, first placed in front of him, but he showed no interest. We then placed the whole, live fish into his mouth, which he would spit out in disgust as soon as the fish started to move. He was behaving like this because he simply didn’t expect the fish to move. However, after two and-a-half months of feeding live fish, he now prefers it! If he is fed dead fish, his disappointment is obvious. We couldn’t be more pleased with his progress.
Rocky, on the other hand, immediately took to eating live fish from the very first feeding sessions. He loves to chase the fish, catch them, and then eat them! After eating such an unnatural diet for all those years in captivity, we are so pleased to see Rocky eating what his body needs.
Johnny also really enjoys eating the live fish. This tough guy loves to chase the fish, but he has difficulties in grabbing them, due to his lack of teeth.
We are also pleased to share that our team has been upgrading our skills, with three caretakers now certified divers. Besides observing the dolphins on the surface of the water, our team spends much time inside the water. Maintenance of the seapen is an ongoing task. As well, observations from inside the water (albeit only from the sides of the seapen) helps us to better document and understand the behaviors of Rambo, Rocky, and Johnny. Thanks to volunteer instruction Gonzalo, who taught us the necessary skills.
Despite the uncertainly of the world, thanks to your ongoing support, we are continuing to care for our rescued dolphins 24/7 while keeping the Bali Dolphin Sanctuary running seamlessly. Please consider making a gift of regular support so the dolphins can live the rest of their lives in safety and dignity.
Featured image: Rambo and Johnny. Credit: Tinton
YOUR HELP HAS NEVER BEEN MORE NEEDED
The Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center and Camp Lumba Lumba Readaptation and Release Center form an incredible partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia, BKSDA Bali, Dolphin Project, Jakarta Animal Aid Network, Karimunjawa National Park and the West Bali National Park. Together, we built Umah Lumba, the world’s only permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility for previously captive dolphins and Camp Lumba Lumba, the world’s first permanent facility dedicated to the readaptation and release of dolphins in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa. Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project has pioneered readaptation for captive dolphins and has released a number of dolphins into the wild.