Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
About 70 captive bottle-nose dolphins are awaiting release back into the wide open sea thanks to the efforts of two animal care institutions under the supervision of international dolphin trainer-turned-rescuer Richard O’Barry.
Jakarta Animal Aid Network and the Earth Island Institute have built a 90-square-meter sea pen in Karimun Jawa National Park — the world’s largest for a dolphin rehabilitation program — to house the aquatic mammals temporarily before releasing them back into their natural habitat in the waters off the northern coast of Java.
“Once they are moved into the sea pen, they will experience the natural rhythm of the sea. That’s where their families are, or what’s left of them,” said O’Barry, who was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove” in 2009.
He was speaking on Wednesday at the official launch of the five-year protection and rehabilitation program for the ocean-going mammals with support from the Ministry of Forestry.
O’Barry has assisted similar programs in other countries after he gave up his previous job as a trainer, which included coaching five dolphins for the television series “Flipper.”
A survey by JAAN found that the majority of dolphins in captivity were poached from Central Java’s Karimun Jawa National Park while three dolphins originated from the Ujung Kulon National Park in Banten.
The group carried out the survey after they were informed by concerned parties of a traveling circus featuring dolphins as one of its attractions.
Other dolphins were found in five institutions operating under the guise of conservation, education and therapy organizations, which had allegedly obtained the animals illegally from poachers on the northern coast of Java.
JAAN spokesman Pramudya Harzani added that the Central Java-based traveling circus, which he did not name, has five troupes in the archipelago.
“This is the last traveling dolphin show in the world and Indonesia is the only country to have such a show,” O’Barry said, adding that the claim captive dolphins could be used for educational or conservation purposes was “a form of bad education and a spectacle of dominance.”
He said that to discourage the growth of such businesses, people should stop buying tickets to watch dolphin shows, since doing so increased the demand for poached dolphins.
“I am hoping the dolphins can go home to the sea soon,” O’Barry said. “There’s no the point to the dolphins staying in a tank swimming around in circles.”
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