Activists praise minister for closing dolphin attraction

by Ni Komang Erviani on 2013-02-15

Activists from the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) praised the forestry minister’s action in shutting down a dolphin attraction in Denpasar, declaring that the minister’s plan to release the dolphins back to their natural habitat was the best thing that had ever happened. They urged the minister to close down other dolphin circuses in Indonesia.

“Dolphin circuses are cruel and the minister’s decision to move the dolphins to the rehabilitation center before releasing them into the wild is a good measure. We are very happy about that,” wildlife rescue and rehabilitation manager and founder of JAAN, Femke Den Haas, said in Denpasar on Thursday.

JAAN is an NGO that is spearheading the campaign to stop the exploitation of dolphins for entertainment, especially traveling dolphin circuses. Together with the Forestry Ministry, JAAN has been protecting Indonesia’s dolphins and has worked to rehabilitate and release the captive dolphins that have been rescued back into the wild
under a five-year joint agreement.

Den Haas was referring to a visit on Wednesday made by Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan to Akame Restaurant in Benoa. The restaurant had a dolphin attraction on its premises and after witnessing the two bottlenose dolphins kept in the restaurant’s pool, the minister declared that he was shutting down the attraction and ordered his staff to confiscate the dolphins and to immediately move them to the Dolphin Rehabilitation Center in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa.

Den Haas said that in October 2010, when JAAN signed the joint agreement with the Forestry Ministry, there were at least 72 dolphins living in pools being exploited for entertainment across the country.

“Our investigation found that some places in Indonesia have dolphins with no obvious information about their origins. Some places pretend to be rescuers of the dolphins. They said that they got the dolphins from fisherman, and they wanted to save them. But then the dolphins become part of their collection, used as tourist sport,” Den Haas added.

“Mostly, the places that provide dolphin attractions pretend that their places were established as educational facilities… But it is not true. They just exploit the dolphins, make them hungry all day long, and they have to play ball, jump through fire, and do other actions, for some dead fish as food,” Den Haas stated.

Besides Akame restaurant, JAAN stated that there were still two other facilities in Bali that offered dolphin attractions, one at Serangan island in Denpasar and another one at the Melka Hotel in Lovina, Buleleng. At a restaurant on Serangan island, there are 11 dolphins. Meanwhile at Melka Hotel there are 5 dolphins, one of which is blind.

“The dolphins kept by the circus management are mostly in poor health. That’s because dolphins actually couldn’t live in a small plastic pool. Moreover, the pool water usually has added chlorine,” Den Haas said.

She added that the crowded situation during the show, the music and boisterous applause, was potentially harmful as dolphins were acoustic mammals that used sonar for communication.

Indonesia is regarded as home to the world’s last remaining traveling dolphin circuses. Indonesian dolphins (bottlenose and stenella species) are protected under a government regulation on plant and animal preservation that was issued in 1999. These captive dolphins are classified under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as a protected species.

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