No lifeline thrown to Bali dolphins

No lifeline thrown to Bali dolphins
PHOTO: Reuters

Despite growing pressure from almost half a million people around the world who signed a petition calling for the rescue of four dolphins held in a small chlorinated resort pool in Bali, the Indonesian government has refused to take action.

Although the Environment and Forestry Ministry found out that one of the dolphins was half blind and all of them were toothless, it said that all of the dolphins were found to be healthy, in contrast to a video secretly captured by an Australian animal rights group last month.

In the video, the dolphins, supplied by a company from Central Java, Wersut Seguni Indonesia (WSI), could be seen swimming toward the camera in the murky pool of Wake Bali Resto and Dolphin.

"Their skin was dull. Their eyes were cloudy. The water that they were in was not clear. I had noticed that they had had their teeth removed. I'm unsure as to why but I think it's absolutely disgusting," Natascha Elisa, who took the video, said on an Australian talk show. "It was absolutely heartbreaking. I laid by the pool and they swam over and were quite obviously crying. It was really sad."

However, despite their missing teeth, the cause of which has not yet been determined, the government said the dolphins were healthy.

"The lack of teeth did not affect the health and activities of the dolphins in Wake Bali Resto and Dolphin because the feeding process of the dolphins does not involve chewing, instead [the food] is swallowed," Bambang Dahono Adji, the ministry's biodiversity conservation director, said on Friday.

He said that four veterinarians regularly monitored the health of the dolphins at the resort.

Activists have also decried the size of the pool, measuring 10 by 20 meters. In the wild, dolphins swim around 160 kilometers a day.

"And of course being cement they can't use their sonar - it would be like Chinese water torture listening to their same clicks echoing back at them constantly," Australian zoologist Stephen Brend said.

Bambang, however, said that all facilities in the resort met the requirements set by the government, including the level of chlorine in the water as well as the size and construction of the pool.

"The pools owned by PT WSI at Wake Bali Resto and Dolphin consist of a main pool, which is 26 by 12 m and has a depth of 3 m, and a quarantine pool, which is 8 by 6 m and 2.5 m deep. The pools are made of cement coated with ceramic. These specs meet the standards," he said.

As for the chlorine level, which some suspect to be the cause of one dolphin's blindness, Bambang said that it was still below hazardous levels.

Opened in July 2014, Wake Bali Resto and Dolphin immediately sparked protests from NGOs, which said keeping dolphins in a small chlorinated pool would cause the intelligent creatures to suffer a slow, horrific death.

Located on the beach front in Keramas, Gianyar regency, Wake Bali Resto and Dolphin charges US$110 (S$155) for an adult and $100 for a child to swim with the dolphins. It also charges a $89 "watching fee".

It was Sydney-based surfer Craig Brokensha who brought attention to the facility. He started a petition on change.org, which rapidly gained momentum as celebrities lent their voices to the cause.

While the government declined to shut down the facility, the ministry's director general of nature conservation, Tachrir Fathoni, said that he had ordered the resort to replace the blind dolphin with a new one.

Dwi Restu Seta, WSI operational director that the dolphin named Santi was already blind when the company received her.

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