Despite worldwide condemnation, Indonesia’s traveling dolphin shows continue to operate. The circuses are one of the most barbaric forms of animal entertainment, where dolphins are carted via flatbed trucks from city to city, and then forced to perform in plastic pools for paying patrons.
After our team’s recent meeting at the presidential palace, hope was given that these shows would finally come to an end. The individuals we spoke with said they were shocked to learn of our findings, but that none of our grievances had ever reached their desks! And we know why: certain members of the Indonesian government are shareholders of the traveling circuses, so clearly, they wouldn’t be motivated to close these shows down.
As hard as this is to believe, no guidelines for keeping dolphins in captivity even existed when the circuses first began operating. In 2016, this changed when the Forestry Department released their protocols for captive dolphin management. However, these “protocols” were nothing more than a description of the traveling shows and the legalization of them. Oversight of the circus, including the dolphins’ welfare and the quality of the water in their pools was to fall under the management of a neutral person.
Conveniently, this same person – when permits to operate the traveling circuses were up for renewal – rubber-stamped the companies for compliance and thus, their permits were renewed. Two companies, PT Ancol and PT WSI operate the circuses. (A third company, Taman Safari, was forced out of business due to public pressure.) One of these company’s operations was found to have extremely low water quality. Yet despite a report written by an independent scientist suggesting their permits should not be renewed, a visit from the Forestry Department “encouraged” her to change her recommendation.
So in the end, the circuses get what they want with the renewal of their permits. The stakeholders get what they want as they will continue to profit from dolphin exploitation. In a tragic twist, the very people designated to protect these animals are the same ones who are causing their suffering. We did learn that there was an agreement stating this would be the last permits provided. But of course, as we have witnessed nothing but lies and corruption, we don’t expect this to end so amicably.