A video showing dangdut singer Lucinta Luna swimming with a dolphin at the Dolphin Lodge in Sanur, Bali is being widely castigated online as viewers condemn the apparent animal exploitation.
Activists also say the incident illustrates local authorities’ lack of seriousness in protecting animals, considering that the venue was officially ordered to shut last year.
At the time of writing, Lucinta’s clip appears to have been removed from her social media accounts, but a screen recording that bears the watermark of her YouTube channel has been reshared plenty of times since, including by animal rights organization Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) and public figures such as Davina Veronica, Kirana Larasati, and Manohara Odelia.
The short video shows Lucinta holding onto the dolphin’s flippers while the sea mammal swims belly up in the water. There were at least two other people taking turns doing the same thing.
The location of this activity has been identified as the Dolphin Lodge, a swim-with-dolphins attraction located in Sanur that has been banned from operating by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry since April 2020.
Dolphin Lodge, which is operated by PT Piayu Samudra Loka, has removed its Instagram account, though its Facebook page is still up at the time of writing. A quick look at its timeline shows that it has been actively promoting its business in the last couple of months, and last posted only yesterday.
The facility has various “programs” listed on its website, including “Dolphin Interaction” and “Dolphin Educational,” targeting both adults and children, charging from around IDR500,000 (US$34) for a 30-minute session.
In addition, a story put up on its “Visitors” highlights before the Instagram account was taken down also showed Lucinta posting about her visit around two weeks ago.
As the videos continue circulating online, people are calling out Lucinta for giving a bad example that “goes against animal welfare,” while condemning the Dolphin Lodge for continuing their dolphin exploitation. Former Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti was also among those who chimed in on the discussion.
There are also growing calls for the Ministry of Environment to enforce its ban on the facility.
“Why are they allowed to continue exploiting dolphins again now?” Manohara Odelia, a model and animal rights activist, wrote on Instagram.
Coconuts has reached out to the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) in Bali, which represents the ministry in the region, for a comment, but has yet to receive a response.
According to JAAN co-founder Femke den Haas, the practice of keeping dolphins in captivity is “a sensitive issue involving big money makers exploiting dolphins for profit.”
Based on a video uploaded on Facebook, the Dolphin Lodge appears to hold captive at least three dolphins named Rose, Triton, and Ardhan. Their captivity is reminiscent of the dolphins rescued from mistreatment at Melka Hotel in northern Bali, which are now living at a permanent rehabilitation center in West Bali called Umah Lumba. The dolphins had spent years confined in Melka’s heavily chlorinated swimming pool and were in varying degrees of bad health when they were rescued.
Organizers of Umah Lumba said the center is the first of its kind, and specifically designed for dolphins recently rescued from captive facilities.
“Here we rehabilitate ex-captive dolphins from Melka Hotel and prepare them to be returned to the wild. Surely I hope this will open doors to freedom for others,” den Haas said.