These Dolphins Were Rescued From Captivity, Then Found Dead at a Marine Park

Before they were confiscated by local authorities, the malnourished dolphins were made to swim with tourists in Bali.
Koh Ewe
Out of the seven dolphins rescued from a swimming-with-dolphins facility in Bali in April, two have recently died at a holding facility.
Out of the seven dolphins rescued from a swimming-with-dolphins facility in Bali in April, two have died at a marine park. Photo:Steve Douglas on Unsplash

Two dolphins died at a marine park where they were sent to be rehabilitated after being rescued from a tourist attraction, Bali authorities confirmed this week. The deaths came amid concerns about the poor conditions the dolphins were being kept in even after they were confiscated.

The bottlenose dolphins found themselves at the center of a social media storm in April when a viral video showed an Indonesian celebrity riding a dolphin at Dolphin Lodge Bali, a tourist attraction that offered swim-with-dolphins experiences for visitors.


After it was posted, the video triggered widespread criticism of the exploitation of the animals, resulting in Dolphin Lodge Bali being shut down by the authorities.

The seven dolphins were then transported to Bali Exotic Marine Park, a holding facility that was meant to offer sanctuary while the dolphins were prepared for their eventual release. But while the dolphins were rescued from their original location, they faced an uncertain fate due to their deteriorating health after long periods of neglect and unsuitable conditions at the marine park.

At the time of their rescue in April, the choice of rescue location sparked worry among animal rights groups, who argued that Bali Exotic Marine Park lacked proper facilities to rehabilitate the dolphins. The saga prompted a coalition of animal rights activists to start an online petition demanding that the dolphins be released in the ocean.

Earlier fears were vindicated as an update published by the coalition on Oct. 12 described subpar living conditions for the dolphins on a visit to Bali Exotic Marine Park. According to the group, five dolphins were found in a small, shallow pool where they were exposed to the sun and swimming in warm water. Two dolphins were also apparently missing, they noted.


That visit surfaced in a press release sent to local news outlets on Monday, the same day that an official from the Bali Natural Resources Conservation Center, the government body that placed the dolphins at the marine park, finally addressed concerns about the “missing” dolphins.

The two dolphins were in fact dead, confirmed the center’s conservation department head Sumarsono. He denied the dolphins died due to conditions at Bali Exotic Marine Park, saying their death was the result of excessive exploitation under their previous owner.

Sumarsono added that some of the rescued dolphins were in bad shape, and could have acute hepatitis, as indicated by the yellow tint of their eyes. 

“What can we do when they had already been sick since we rescued them?” he said.

The official also made a point to address speculation that authorities had sold or killed the dolphins for human consumption.

“How do we sell such big dolphins in the market without causing an uproar in the market?” he said.

The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Regardless, swimming with dolphins remains a popular tourist activity in Bali, with several companies offering the experience—despite the fact that the practice is widely viewed as detrimental to the wellbeing of the mammals.

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