Illegally held dolphins in Bali kidnapped: JAAN
After praising the forestry minister’s action for shutting down a dolphin attraction at Akame Dolphin Bay Restaurant in Denpasar on Feb. 13, the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) now criticized the slow reaction of the ministry in following up on its policy. For the 10 days following the ministry’s announcement about closing the dolphin attraction, Akame Restaurant continued to hold its commercial dolphin shows, leading to a local protest at the site on Feb. 22 to question the commitment made to immediately release the dolphins to their rightful natural habitat.
On Saturday, Feb. 23, the two dolphins were transported to Wersut Seguni Indonesia (WSI) dolphin facility in Weleri, Central Java, by truck, the activists claimed. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan previously promised that the dolphins would be relocated to a dolphin rehabilitation center in Karimun Jawa, before being released into the wild.
“The dolphins are now currently on a truck, to be transported inhumanely for over 20 hours or more to be put in a condition even worse than that noted by the minister as being ‘cruel and unacceptable’. They are understood to be headed back to the original dolphin captivity center for the traveling circus in Weleri, Central Java. The owner of the travel show has its holding station there, and it is widely documented that this is where the dolphins were originally kept and sold to unlicensed commercial exploitation facilities around the country,” wildlife rescue and rehabilitation manager and founder of JAAN, Femke Den Haas, said on Sunday morning.
Den Haas said that the truck transport should not have been allowed. “Further acknowledging the lack of care of these animals, it is clear no one has checked with the meteorology center of Indonesia and the dolphins are heading into a tropical depression with heavy rain and sustained winds up to 40 knots predicted for the next 4 to 5 days. It is likely that marine transportation in Indonesia crossing islands could be halted or considered extremely dangerous with small and large craft advisories in place, further jeopardizing the safety of the dolphins in these current makeshift transportation vehicles,” she said.
“The transportation of these animals overland, and on public ferries, in inadequate trucks with inadequate health and safety considerations, back to their original captive location where they were originally sold illegally, is in breach of all commitments, laws, and regulations as openly recognized by those responsible for both creating and enforcing the laws pertaining to this subject, the Forestry Ministry as representative of the Indonesian government. Instead the dolphins should have been, as promised, transported by helicopter accompanied by the expert team that was pre-arranged, who have been waiting voluntarily and patiently in Bali for more than 10 days, on a journey that would have taken only three hours and would have brought the animals home, to be nursed and released to their families and their natural environment, where they so rightfully belong. The current transport violates national and international laws, regulations, bylaws and treaties and must be stopped immediately,” Den Haas added.
Den Haas said that all the equipment and a helicopter had been prepared since the initial announcement on Feb. 13. Groups and experts had been mobilized, flown in from around the world, and prepared in urgency to assist the minister with his admirable commitment to relocate the two dolphins to Karimun Jawa rehabilitation center.
“As the team was on standby in Bali for the relocation exercise, the news that the two dolphins left Akame Restaurant clandestinely on Saturday came as a shock and direct breach and conflict to the commitments which had been made to date,” she declared.
Ade Kusmana from Akame Dolphin Bay Restaurant denied that the two dolphins had been transported. “It’s not right. The two dolphins are still in the pool at Akame Restaurant,” said the man, who is also a senior trainer at the WSI.
Ade Kusmana said that he was still waiting for action by the ministry staff to transport the two dolphins. “But the two dolphins will likely be transported to Weleri, as the ministry has said that the rehabilitation center in Karimun Jawa is unfit ,” he said.
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.