Indonesian officials are facing a new wave of criticism following their decision to relocate the dolphins rescued from the banned Dolphin Lodge in Sanur to Bali Exotic Marine Park in Benoa, which animal welfare organizations describe as a “setback.”
Despite some objections, the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) in Bali defended their decision and said that it was made with various considerations.
Meruanto, BKSDA Bali’s head of administration, explained those considerations to Coconuts this morning, noting how the marine park is a legal conservation center and was chosen because BKSDA currently does not have a shelter for aquatic animals. In addition, the park is deemed the closest facility for rescue efforts.
“For us, the most important thing is that the animals survive while waiting for the next step,” Meruanto said.
Seven dolphins were recently rescued from the Dolphin Lodge, a swim-with-dolphins attraction operated by PT Piayu Samudra Loka, that has been banned by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry since April 2020. The facility remained operational until at least earlier this month despite official orders to shut.
A viral video featuring dangdut singer Lucinta Luna swimming with a dolphin there sparked widespread calls for authorities to step up their efforts in protecting animals, leading to the Dolphin Lodge’s closure.
The rescued dolphins, an Indo-Pacific species also known as tursiops aduncus, have since been moved to the Bali Exotic Marine Park, Meruanto said. They have been deemed healthy while still being under close supervision, and are set for rehabilitation and eventual return to the ocean.
However, some animal welfare organizations have raised concerns over the latest developments, as they see the Bali Exotic Marine Park as a “commercial captivity center.”
A conservation foundation called Rare Aquatic Species of Indonesia (RASI) noted in a statement issued yesterday that the marine park does not have a sea pen for the dolphins, which means the sea mammals will have to rehabilitate in a chlorinated pool.
“I hope there is sympathy for these dolphins so they can be freed from commercial exploitation. Because dolphins belong in the open sea, not in a manmade pool,” Danielle Kreb, a scientific program advisor at the foundation, said.