Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) is reporting that two dolphins held in a Bali Indonesian restaurant have been kidnapped ahead of an agreement by Indonesia's Forestry Minister to release them for rehabilitation.
The captive dolphins were being displayed at the Akame Restaurant in Benoa Harbor, Bali Indonesia and were supposed to be handed over to dolphin advocate Ric O’Barry and animal advocate group -- JAAN, for rehabilitation and eventual release.
As the rescue teams "were on standby in Bali for the relocation exercise," said JAAN in a press release, news filtered through that "the two dolphins left Akame Restaurant clandestinely on 23rd February."
The dolphins' release had been agreed to by Indonesia's Minister of Forestry, Zulkifli Hasan, amid mounting pressure to stop the exploitation of dolphins for entertainment. The minister agreed to release the dolphins after he visited Akame Dolphin Bay Restaurant on Feb 13.
According to the Jakarta Post, Hasan declared the conditions at the restaurant unsuitable for dolphins and "ordered his staff to confiscate the dolphins and to immediately move them to the Dolphin Rehabilitation Center in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa." The eventual goal he said, would be to release the dolphins back into the wild.
The two dolphins were the first of many that Indonesia's Forestry Department had agreed to turn over (in Oct. 2010), to the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) and the US-based, Earth Island Institute under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
The MOU involved a five-year plan to rehabilitate and reintroduce more than 70 captive dolphins back to the ocean and with the aid of the Earth Island Institute and support from Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project, the largest sea pen in the world was constructed to receive them.
The rehab facility was supposed to begin receiving the illegally caught dolphins -- many used in traveling dolphin circus shows, in March 2011, yet the $50,000 ocean enclosure, remains empty.
The Akame dolphins, two males named Wayan and Made should have been the first inhabitants, but according to JAAN, "The dolphins are now currently on a truck, to be transported inhumanely over 20 hours or more to be put in a condition even worse than that noted by the Minister as being 'cruel and unacceptable'."
JAAN believes the marine mammals are now headed back to the original dolphin captivity center for the traveling circus in Weleri, Central Java. "The owner of the travel show has its holding station there," JAAN explained, "and it is widely documented that this is the where the dolphins were originally kept and sold to unlicensed commercial exploitation facilities around the country," they said.
The dolphins are believed to be heading for a traveling circus in Central Java said JAAN.
The Network added, "It appears the public announcements and promises provided by the Minister of Forestry, Minister Zul Hasan may have been lip service." Even though they said, Hasan openly admitted to the public and the press that the dolphins:
Were being kept and commercially exploited illegally and that he would himself ensure the facility was closed down and the dolphins delivered immediately to a rehabilitation center that has been specifically designed for their rehabilitation, care, and release back into their natural habitat.
Still, ten days passed by since the Minister's promise JAAN explained, and the Akame Restaurant continued to hold its commercial dolphin shows with no subsequent action being taken. This led to a local protest at the site on Feb. 22 and the dolphins disappeared the following day.
"This transport should not have been allowed," JAAN said. "The transportation of these animals overland, and across public ferries, in inadequate trucks with inadequate health and safety considerations, back to their original captive location where they were sold illegally, is in breach of all commitments, laws, and regulations," the Network explained.
Ric and Lincoln O'Barry in the sea pen, constructed at a cost of $50,000. Under the MOU agreement, it was supposed to be used to rehab dolphins for release beginning Mar. 2011. It has yet to see a dolphin.
Now the dolphins are currently heading into a tropical depression JAAN reports, with insufficient protection against heavy rain and sustained 40 knot winds predicted for the next 4-5 days.
"Only three hours would have brought the animals home," said JAAN, "to be nursed and released to their families and their natural environment, where they so rightfully belong. The current transport violates national, international laws, regulations, by-laws, and treaties," they added, "and must be stopped immediately."
JAAN and the Dolphin project have issued an urgent call to action for the public to tweet the Foresty Minister @Zul_Hasan and ask him to stop the truck and release the dolphins as promised.
Update 2/24/13 7:11 PM MST
According to a printed article in the Bali Daily, Ade Kusmane, a senior trainer at Akame Dolphin Bay Restaurant is denying that the two dolphins have left the venue. Kusame said that he was still waiting for action from Ministry staff to transport the dolphins. However, he added, "they will likely be transported to Weleri, as the ministry has said that the rehabilitation center in Karimun Jawa is unfit."
Weleri is the captivity center for Indonesia's traveling circus.