May 13, 2013
As a kid, she watched dolphin circuses and dreamed of caring for a dolphin, teaching it to perform tricks. But as a grown up, she realised that "humanising" wild animals means altering their place in nature.
"Young people are always into cool stuff. One of the coolest things I know is seeing dolphins in their natural habitat," Riyanni Djangkaru, an animal welfare activist and diver, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
For her, the main message is about putting things back where they naturally belong.
"Would it be a virtue if we do that? I think the real caring is to let them be in their own nature," said Riyanni, a former presenter on travel adventure programme The Adventurer's Track (Jejak Petualang).
Dolphin sanctuary sits empty
Riyanni supports a campaign launched last year at social activism web site Change.org, urging Indonesia to ban traveling circuses from using dolphins in their shows. So far, the online petition has 93,000 supporters.
It's part of an initiative launched by animal rights group Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) in 2010 after it received reports of a dolphin that died during a circus performance.
Activists say that dolphins are still featured in travelling circuses in parts of Indonesia, even though it is illegal. They also say that dolphins kept in captivity for educational purposes are often supplied by poachers and loaned out for entertainment purposes.
In October 2010, JAAN signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the Forestry Ministry's director for biodiversity conservation to release 72 dolphins kept in captivity, and to rehabilitate them in a 90-square-meter sea pen built for this purpose in Central Java's Karimun Jawa National Park, before returning them to the open sea.
The first three captive dolphins were set to be rehabilitated in March 2011. But the plan was cancelled at the last minute for unspecified reasons, JAAN spokesman Pramudya Harzani said. The plan has been in limbo since; the rehabilitation pen sits unused. Related agencies declined to comment on why they have made so little progress in fulfilling the agreement.
"It is the most beautiful dolphin sanctuary in the world," renowned dolphin activist Richard O'Barry told Khabar in an interview in Jakarta recently. "It is the only one in the world, but it sits there empty."
Minister: dolphin circuses 'intolerable'
Once a dolphin trainer himself, O'Barry said the mammals are not like dogs that do tricks for owner approval. The highly intelligent sea mammals are controlled by food deprivation and do tricks to survive.
In travelling circuses, they are confined to small pools where they urinate and defecate. High doses of chlorine used to kill the resulting bacteria hurts their eyes and burns their skin.
"They are swimming in their own toilet. It is cruel and should be abolished," he said.
During a discussion on dolphin protection in Jakarta in February, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan vowed to protect the wild sea mammals, saying using them in traveling circuses is "intolerable" and illegal.
"If there is such a traveling dolphin show, we would confiscate the dolphins and release them back to the sea," he said.
Dolphins are protected under a 1999 government regulation on animals and plants conservation, he said. There are very strict legal requirements for keeping dolphins in captivity for educational purposes, Zulkifli said.
Only three institutions, the Wersut Seguni Indonesia in Kendal, Central Java, Taman Safari Indonesia in Bogor, West Java, and Ancol Dream Park in Jakarta, have permits to do so.
Syahid Ramli, a lecturer at Sekolah Tinggi Agama Islami (STAI) Al Falah, an Islamic college in Banjar Baru, South Kalimantan, told Khabar that Islam permits the proper use of animals to support human life.
"But it should be done by ensuring respect for the animals and treating them humanely in accordance with their respective basic nature," Syahid told Khabar. This includes providing them with a proper and clean space to live, he added.