Although travelling dolphin shows are considered abusive and have been outlawed in other countries, Indonesia is still a haven for at least five companies running commercial dolphin circuses.
These are Taman Impian Ancol recreational park in Jakarta; Taman Safari Indonesia zoo in Bogor, West Java; the Central Java-based PT Wersut Seguni Indonesia (WSI) in Kendal; and two Bali-based companies, Melka Lovina Hotel in northern Bali and Serangan Island south of Sanur.
Despite being condemned for the cruel technique used when transporting these highly intelligent and social sea mammals, last month Bali welcomed a travelling dolphin show run by Taman Impian Ancol. The show packed its bags and returned to Jakarta over the weekend.
“Garuda Indonesia airline is responsible for their transport. On Saturday the two dolphins left Denpasar on a passenger flight, GA 411. The dolphins were packed in small crates together with sea lions and otters, all the animals had been exploited in the circus,” wrote Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) founder Femke den Haas in a Sunday release provided to The Jakarta Post and Bali Daily.
JAAN further wrote that flight was harmful for dolphins due to the extreme gravity difference compared with being in the water, while the extreme noise of the flight was also potentially harmful as dolphins were acoustic mammals that used sonar for communication.
Pramudya, JAAN action coordinator, explained that dolphins in travelling shows are usually transported in dry conditions. “Because dolphins are mammals, they can breathe for 4 to 6 hours using their lungs. Thus, the dolphins are usually transported in a box in a dry condition, only having their skins polished with Vaseline as a
“This time, they are kept in dry boxes, only wet towels are provided,” den Haas said.
In its press release, JAAN called for a boycott against the national carrier, Garuda Indonesia, which had been supporting the transportation of travelling circuses.
“The petition against Garuda Indonesia was recently launched and already counts thousands of signatures at change.org. Meanwhile, a petition against the Indonesian dolphin travel shows has so far counted 20,000 signatures from people opposing them,” JAAN wrote.
Garuda Indonesia vice president for corporate communication, Pujobroto, made an official statement saying, “Garuda is committed to conservation of nature, including preservation of dolphins. Garuda will review its policy in transporting live animals, including/especially the dolphins.”
“Garuda will not be transporting dolphins again in the future,” he confirmed.
Pramudya regretted that dolphin circuses continued to be legal in Indonesia, as they were deemed “educational”. For permit processing purposes, they are considered conservation institutions. Permits are issued by the Forestry Ministry under Law No. 5/1999 related to protection of biodiversity.
“We don’t see the educational aspect. It is purely commercial entertainment, thus does not have the right to be categorised as animal preservation,” Pramudya said.
He acknowledged that the dry transportation process was regulated by government regulations (PP No. 7 and 8, issued in 1999). However, this referred to special cases of animals being transferred between zoos and for research purposes. A commercial dolphin circus is neither of the two.
The Forestry Ministry’s director general for forest and natural resources protection (PHKA), Darori, overseeing the issue, was unavailable for comment.
The majority of captive dolphins in Indonesia are bottlenose dolphins, classified under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
JAAN officially partners the Forestry Ministry in protecting Indonesia’s dolphins and they have signed a 5-year plan allowing “confiscate, rehabilitate and release” of captive dolphins into the wild.