Meeting with the Indonesian Minister

By Ric O’Barry
Dolphin Project

I was supposed to fly home, but instead I flew to Bali to go with the Minister of Forestry to see several dolphins being held in a small swimming pool at a café in Bali. 

Our friends from Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) had identified these dolphins as illegal and went to the restaurant with the local police, but the owners pulled out a document claiming the dolphins were “on loan” to the café by the traveling circus!  And the police left.  That is the way things are done in Indonesia, it seems.

But Mr. Zulkifili Hasan, Forestry Minister, met with us on Tuesday in his office and reconfirmed his willingness to shut down the traveling circus and help us help the dolphins by bringing them to our sea pen in Karimun Jawa National Park for rehabilitation and release.

We built the sea pen in 2010 after signing an MOU, in October 2010, with the Forestry Department agreeing to supply us with these illegal dolphins, being kept in captivity in a number of dolphinariums, swimming pools, and the traveling circus.  But we could never get the Forestry Dept. to actually take action for us.


The Minister agreed to work with JAAN and Dolphin Project to shut down the illegal traveling circus and to transport the dolphins to our sea pen for rehab and release back into the wild, where they belong.

After the meeting, I was scheduled to fly home, but the Forestry Minister announced he would go to Bali immediately and wanted me there with him, along with JAAN.  So my flights have been canceled, and I will continue to work in Indonesia for the next few days, at least.  Of course, if and when we get dolphins to transport to our sea pen, I will be coming back and helping JAAN with the rehab and release process.  Since our sea pen is in the middle of the National Park where these dolphins were illegally caught, it will be fairly easy to let them out back into the ocean. 

We arrived at the café, and indeed the situation was frightful.  The pool was so polluted that you could barely see the dolphins under the surface.

And the Minister stated: “The dolphins here are not being cared properly for, and they will be relocated.”


Ric at a Bali school giving a presentation on dolphins for the children last week.

Veterinarian Dr Made Sugi of the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) inspects two dolphins in the Akame restaurant in Bali, Indonesia, 13th February 2013. In a breakthrough meeting between conservation groups and the Ministry of Forestry, both formally agreed to work together and take direct action against illegally captured, held, or displayed dolphins by any unlicensed entity, and would hand over the captive dolphins to Jakarta Animal Aid Network ( JAAN) and the Dolphin Project to rehabilitate and release back into their natural habitat. Starting with the release and transport of at least two male dolphins currently on display in a private restaurant “Akame” located in Benoa Harbor, Bali.

All of that is in the future; for now, we have successfully broken through the bureaucratic muffling that has prevented our making progress for the past two years. 

Two years in which captive dolphins have continued to be abused, losing their skills of how to survive in the wild.  We will have to proceed with caution in their rehabilitation.
And we still face a lot of opposition, both from the captive industry and from their supporters within the Indonesian government.

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About Ric O'Barry

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Ric O’Barry, Dolphin Project Founder & Director has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.

In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.

From that moment on, O’Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.

Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.

O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His book Behind the Dolphin Smile was published in 1989; a second book, To Free A Dolphin was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication. He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.

Author: Ric O'Barry


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