Travelling dolphin circuses: time to end the cruelty

Wednesday 27 July, 2011, 11:24, by The Black Fish

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Indonesia is home to the world's last remaining travelling dolphin circuses. Over 72 bottlenose and stenella dolphins are kept in the most appalling of conditions to preform for audiences across island of Java. The animals are frequently hauled out of their plastic performing pools and loaded into the back of trucks along with other animals as the circuses move from town to town. The transportation is so stressful for the animals that many of the dolphins die due to this stress and lack of proper care. As a European organisation The Black Fish focuses on campaigns in Europe. We are however asking for your attention towards the important dolphin circus campaign initiated by the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) in Indonesia and help put a stop to this incredible cruelty.

Dolphins are hauled out of their plastic performing pools and loaded into the back of trucks frequently

Dolphins are hauled out of their plastic performing pools and loaded into the back of trucks frequently.

Photo by JAAN

Three separate companies still run travelling dolphin shows on the main Indonesian island of Java: WSI, Taman Safari Indonesia and Ancol. Together they hold an estimated 72 dolphins in captivity. Most of these animals are constantly 'on the road' but WSI also has a holding facility where more dolphins are kept to replace the animals that die on a regular basis. From the start of the campaign the circus owned by Wersut Seguni Indonesia (WSI) has been of special interest to activists.

JAAN has been campaigning against this circus for almost two years. The company travels with a number of protected animals and show owners have been claiming legal status by using a loop-hole in Ministry regulations which permit travelling shows with these animal when they are used for educational purposes. Activists have done extensive investigation in recently years and JAAN has been able to prove WSI's false claim over this status. The investigation also got the evidence to prove that all of the dolphins have all been caught illegally from the wild. Other animals kept in the circus are baby sunbears, small clawed otters, yellow crested cockatoos and an orang-utan.

The circus owners have repeatedly threatened the activists but to no avail. JAAN brought the evidence to the relevant authorities and was able to sign an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Indonesian government permitting the rescue, rehabilitation and relocation of the dolphins and the rescue of the other animals. JAAN set up a seapen for the rehabilitation of the captive dolphins. Where possible the dolphins will be set free or at minimum live out their lives in stress free large semi-wild enclosures.

On the day of the planned raid operation government officials cancelled at the last moment and while more meetings have taken place since it is clear that the influential circus owners have pressured the very officials that are supposed to protect the animals from harm. Seven months after the agreement with the Indonesian government was signed, the animals are still used in the shows of WSI and no action has been taken by the authorities.

The Indonesian government is very sensitive to international pressure so JAAN is calling on people from around the world to add their voice to the campaign and help release these wild caught animals.

What you can do

1. write to the Indonesian ambassador of your country and Indonesian authority officials (see example letter and addresses below)

2. join the facebook campaign page

Watch the video of the WSI circus

Example letter (please modify as necessary)

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you out of concern for the well-being of protected animals used in travelling circuses in Indonesia. Especially the situation of the travelling dolphin circus Wersut Seguni Indonesia (WSI) deserves your attention.

WSI uses baby sunbears (Helarctos malayanus), yellow crested cockatoos (cacatua galerita), small clawed otters (Aonyx cinerea) and even dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in its shows. An orangutan, endangered and protected by Indonesian law, is also kept illegally on the premises of WSI in the Kendal province of central Java, in darkness and isolation.

The illegal trade in these animals is threatening the wild dolphin populations in Indonesian waters due to the upcoming industry of 'swimming with dolphins' programs and travel shows. For the travelling circuses the dolphins are transported by trucks to various cities throughout Indonesia. The stress of the circus performances and the frequent transportation has already resulted in a large number of dolphin deaths.

Research conducted (2009-2010-2011) by the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) proved that all animals kept at WSI were illegally caught from the wild, without any license. The capturing of dolphins from the wild obviously has a big negative impact on the wild populations. Since data on dolphin populations (numbers and species) are still lacking in Indonesia, we take this matter very seriously.

JAAN brought the evidence to the relevant authorities and was able to sign an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Indonesian government permitting the rescue, rehabilitation and relocation of the dolphins and the rescue of the other animals.

JAAN has set up sea pens and a rehabilitation program for the 27 bottlenose and stenella dolphins kept at WSI and this will become the first permanent facility in the world to rehabilitate and release dolphins back into the wild. Arrangements were also made for the animals to be confiscated and transported to the facility. The program ensures that where possible the dolphins will be set free or at minimum live out their lives in stress free large semi-wild enclosures.

Last month government officials cancelled the raid operation at the last moment without proper explanation and it has become clear that the influential circus owners have successfully persuaded the very officials that are supposed to protect the animals from harm. Seven months after the agreement with the Indonesian government was signed, the animals are still used in the shows of WSI and no action has been taken by the authorities.

Indonesia is the last country where dolphins are used in travelling shows and this is something which is condemned around the world. We would like to ask you to put this issue towards the relevant Indonesian authorities and ensure that animals kept illegally by WSI are re-located to an appropriate rehabilitation facility. We also request that you will put this case to the Indonesian government to ensure that Indonesian law and international regulations are upheld and that Indonesia can proudly show a leadership role in the protection of these endangered species.

Thank you for your attention and I look forward hearing from you regarding any possible action you are able to take on this issue.

Yours sincerely,


Please send the letter to:

Your local Indonesian Ambassador

European embassies: Belgium | France | Germany | United Kingdom

The following goverment officials in Indonesia:

Sekretaris Jenderal, Forestry Department
sekjen@dephut.go.id
boenm@dephut.go.id

Inspector General Forestry Department
irjen@dephut.go.id

Governor of Jakarta
bowof@jakarta.go.id

Director General Forestry Department
dirjenphka@dephut.go.id

Minister of Forestry Department
menhut@dephut.com

Please send a copy of all correspondence to jakartaanimalaid@gmail.com


Related news articles:

Locals help dolphins return to the wild | Govt ‘Dodging’ Responsibility To Save Dolphins | Indonesia to Review Dolphin Release Plan: Official | Captive audience | Caught in net of delays | Jakarta Animal Aid Network - Dolphin Program

Dolphins are hauled out of their plastic performing pools and loaded into the back of trucks frequently

Frequently the dolphins are hauled out of their plastic performing pools for transport. Photo by JAAN

Dolphins are loaded into the back of trucks in very small tanks which are only part filled with water

Dolphins are loaded into the back of trucks in very small tanks which are only part filled with water. Photo by JAAN

Dolphins are trained to jump through hoops on fire

Dolphins are trained to jump through hoops on fire. Photo by JAAN

This orangutan is also locked up at the circus

This orangutan is also locked up at the circus. Photo by JAAN