Celebrity Says World Watching Indonesia’s Dolphin Decision
Source : Jakarta Globe, Stephen Schaber | June 16, 2011
The world is watching to see if Indonesia is really going to release formerly captive dolphins directly to the wild or hand them over to a rehabilitation program, according to Ric O’Barry, the world’s most well-known dolphin activist and star of the 2009 Academy Award winning documentary, “The Cove.”
“This is an opportunity for Indonesia to send a message to the rest of the world about how much it cares for nature,” O’Barry said.
The Indonesian government stated its intention to release dolphins previously held in captivity directly back into the sea during meetings with the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), according to the animal rights activist group.
This circumvents a memorandum of understanding the government signed with the nongovernmental organization, which declared that all illegally kept dolphins will be placed in JAAN’s dolphin rehabilitation program before returning to the wild.
Dismay Over Plans for Indonesia’s Captive Dolphins
“This is a huge opportunity for positive publicity for Indonesia,” he said. “I would hate to see them blow it.”
O’Barry said his son was producing a television special about the JAAN rehabilitation program, located on Karimun Jawa Island, for the show “Blood Dolphins” on cable television channel Animal Planet, which screens in Indonesia.
The American campaigner has previously appeared on Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360 and the Oprah Winfrey Show, the US’s most popular daytime talkshow, to discuss his crusade to save dolphins from the captivity industry.
He said he thought the Minister of Forestry, the government agency responsible for dolphin conservation, was completely unaware of the worldwide publicity, whether good or bad, Indonesia’s decision will attract globally.
“This is a potential windfall of positive publicity for Indonesia,” he said. “I hope the decision makers do the right thing.”
He noted, however, that the Indonesian government had made improvements in the protection of dolphins.
“The positive thing is that [the government] has stopped the illegal capture of the dolphins and is intent on preventing further abuse,” he said.
But the dolphins, O’Barry emphasized, must be taught to live in the wild before returning to their natural habitat.
“[Directly releasing the dolphins] is them putting in great danger,” O’Barry said. “They need to rebuild muscle strength, become accustomed to swimming in tides and currents and learn how to hunt live food again.”
This controversy comes on the heels of the Australian cattle export ban. Australia suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia for up to six months after a documentary showing images of animal cruelty in Indonesian slaughterhouses aired on Australian television last month.
O’Barry, a dolphin activist for the past 40 years, is best known for his role in the award winning documentary, “The Cove,” which exposed the mass dolphin herding and killing practices conducted by fishermen in the traditional whaling town of Taiji, Japan.