Indonesian dolphins released on the high seas after years of captivity in a resort hotel
Three bottlenose dolphins – with the endearing names of Johnny, Rocky and Rambo – were released Saturday in the open sea of Indonesia, according to the Associated Press. The aquatic mammals spent years in captivity entertaining tourists before their famous release.
The dolphins had been rescued in 2019 from a small swimming pool at a resort hotel, which had bought the animals after previously spending years in a traveling circus. The Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retreat Center in Bali then treated them before releasing them.
“It was an incredibly moving experience to watch them go,” said Lincoln O’Barry, who founded Umah Lumba – which means ‘dolphin’ in Indonesian – with the support of the national government.
The Dolphin Project, a nonprofit that had helped save the trio, was started by O’Barry’s father, former Dolphins coach Ric O’Barry, in 1970.
After passing through the Underwater Gates of Freedom, the three dolphins spent about an hour swimming nearby. But they finally set sail for destinations unknown, to the applause of the staff at the Umah Lumba center.
“They turned around and came back to us again, almost to say thank you and goodbye,” said Lincoln O’Barry, who filmed their exit with drones. “Where they’re headed next, we don’t know. But we wish them a good long life.
Wahyu Lestari, the center’s rehabilitation coordinator, said she was somewhat saddened to see them go but “they should be in the wild because they were born in the wild”.
When captive, dolphins are often kept in chlorinated water and unintentionally harmed by interactions with tourists.
The Indonesian government has spent the past 10 years working on a public education campaign to change that, replete with billboards and school programs urging citizens not to attend dolphin shows.
Other sanctuaries like the Umah Lumba Center are planned for Europe and the United States, O’Barry said, adding that virtual reality is another way to enjoy nature without supporting inhumane dolphin shows.