Last year, Indonesia's Forestry Minister made headlines and gained the support of animal advocates when he vowed to ban dolphin shows, citing the species' intelligence and asserting that dolphins shouldn't be held captive. But now, it seems that the ban has been less than successful. Dolphins are still being captured and displayed for Indonesian traveling circuses, according to the Jakarta Globe.
Femke den Haas, founding director of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), says that after years of fighting for the end of the travelling dolphin shows, she does not have much hope for Indonesia's protected species, with the country "heading in the wrong direction" in terms of wildlife protection and those in charge failing to carry out their duties. "I feel very frustrated and angry because this shows clearly that Indonesian wildlife is doomed to survive under this management," she said.
Traveling dolphin circuses are almost entirely unique to Indonesia. The shows use performing dolphins in small plastic pools, and then transfer them to a new location loaded in the back of a truck -- an experience that can be very stressful for the animals.
The capture of dolphins is illegal in Indonesia, but fishermen can earn good money for captive dolphins, and the government has failed to prosecute them for it.
"The circus is still happening and the capture of dolphins is also still happening, and when we reported back to the minister saying, look the circus is still happening, and we also proved about the capture of dolphins from the wild, the minister stated he already prohibited the circus and it was no longer his duty to follow up," den Haas said.
There is a facility to receive dolphins from the shows -- but it's not being used.
A rehabilitation center was set up under a 2010 memorandum of understanding, which declared JAAN and the Forest Ministry would protect, save and rehabilitate captured dolphins. Yet the center still sits eerily empty, waiting for the dolphins that have never been rescued from the circuses to reclaim their place in the sea.
Similar bans have seen greater success in other countries -- last year, India joined Hungary, Chile and Costa Rica in enforcing captive dolphin bans, to the praise of activists around the world.