Dolphin driven 'psychotic' by captivity rescued and freed into the ocean

A captive dolphin displaying behavioural issues has been rescued from a Bali hotel.

Video obtained by Yahoo News Australia shows Dewa thrashing about at the edge of the small chlorinated pool where he has been confined in isolation for 15 years.

Femke den Haas from Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) told Yahoo News Australia that the dolphin had been badly affected by his captive conditions.

“The pool where Dewa was kept was made of old very sharp ceramics,” she said.

“He was filled with scratches and he also showed psychotic behaviour like he was trying to jump out of the pool.”

Split screen. Still frames show Dewa the dolphin thrashing in the water at the Bali hotel.
Dewa's behaviour in the pool was described as psychotic. Source: Ric O'Barry

Dolphins living in a ‘toilet bowl’

Ric O’Barry from Dolphin Project worked undercover to observe Dewa and the four other dolphins held at the Melka Excelsior Hotel.

“They were bringing in groups from Russia to be healed by these pathetic, sick dolphins who can’t even heal themselves,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“There were a lot of customers from Australia, people who brought their children there to be ‘healed’ by dolphins.

“They’ve sold them this can of worms.”

Mr O’Barry described the dolphins’ enclosures as being like a “toilet bowl”.

“Dolphins urinate and defaecate three to five times the quantity that a human will,” he said.

“So when you have five dolphins dumping all day in a swimming pool - you can’t see it floating around, if the tourists did, they wouldn’t get in the water.

“But it blends in with the water and the way they counter the filth is to put in heavy loads of chlorine which causes the dolphins to go blind.

A dolphin in the pool at the Melka hotel is surrounded by people, with one in the water.
Dolphins using their "healing powers" at the Melka hotel in Bali. Source: Dolphin Project
People lift Dewa the dolphin out of the hotel swimming pool.
Dewa is removed from the chlorinated pool which had been his home for 15 years. Source: Dolphin Project

Trainers enter pool for last time

Mr O’Barry and Ms den Haas successfully helped remove two of the dolphins, Rocky and Rambo, last August – another died before he could be freed.

Dewa and the remaining dolphin Johnny who is blind, were both missing their teeth and in poor health, so their rescue was put on hold.

The two male dolphins were taken out of isolation and placed in a pool together so they could bond.

Then, last Tuesday, at 11am Bali time, the trainers entered the pool with Dewa and Johnny for the last time.

Mr O’Barry entered the hotel flanked by by the Indonesian department of forestry officials, Dolphin Project volunteers and members of Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN).

The hotel dolphin trainers, made redundant by the raids, were reemployed by Dolphin Project to care for them in retirement.

Dewa and Johnny were lifted separately out of the pool, placed into slings, and carried to a waiting truck.

With sound the dolphin’s primary sense, everyone laboured in silence, and used hand signals for communication, to lessen the dolphin’s stress.

The two dolphins were trucked across the island for two hours, carried onto the beach and then ferried across the water to a sea pen where they could experience the ocean for the first time in over a decade.

Back in the ocean after 15 years

Upon release, the dolphins moved to the centre of the pool and clung close to each other.

Mr O’Barry said the Dewa’s aggressive behaviour immediately subsided.

Split screen. Dewa and Johnny in the ocean. Close up of 80-year-old Ric O'Barry.
The Dolphin Project's Ric O'Barry could see the dolphins in the distance as he spoke to Yahoo News Australia. Source: Rifqiajir / Dolphin Project

“I think we can heal his mental issues at the sanctuary, at least to some degree,” he said.

“Dewa can now experience the changing of the tides, the sounds of the sea, see the stars, feel the rain.

“All of these things he’s been missing for the last 15 years are now available to him.”

Mr O’Barry hopes to release Rocky and Rambo in the future, and provide a caring home for Dewa and Johnny that will help educate people about issues surrounding dolphin captivity.

“But we want people to see them,” he said.

“We want people to know who they are, and why they’re here, and what happened to them.”

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