A discussion in Jakarta on Wednesday featuring the star of an Academy Award-winning documentary on dolphins was marred by a mob questioning the legality of the gathering and threatening to break it up.
The discussion, hosted by the US Embassy at the @america cultural center in the Pacific Place mall, was held to address the controversy of traveling circuses in Indonesia that have dolphin shows.
Richard O’Barry, the renowned US dolphin activist and star of the 2009 documentary “The Cove,” attended the event wearing a bulletproof vest, amid concerns about threats as a result of his activism in the Indonesian circus controversy.
Outside the venue, visitors were heckled by a mob of men dressed in black uniforms, who claimed that the organizers did not have a permit to hold the discussion. The mob, calling itself the Indonesian Alliance, also disrupted the discussion and claimed to represent one of the circuses.
“All we got was intimidation and harassment from these circuses,” O’Barry said, as quoted by Tribunnews.com.
“Some of them are outside this room right now! They threatened JAAN [Jakarta Animal Aid Network] members.”
Femke den Haas, an activist from the JAAN, added, “We just want to protect dolphins but we have to wear bulletproof vests? That’s ridiculous!”
The discussion itself was opened by Zulkifli Hasan, the forestry minister, who insisted that no traveling circus in Indonesia was permitted to transport live dolphins. He called on activist groups like the JAAN to help officials deal with the problem. O’Barry said that was what he and the JAAN had been doing since last year.
The minister also deflected a question from an audience member who said he had seen a dolphin performance at a circus in Bantul, Yogyakarta, and been told by the circus officials that they had obtained their permit from the Forestry Ministry.
“You just tell me where this circus is, and if needs be, I’ll go there myself and break it up,” Zulkifli responded.
He left the event shortly after, citing another engagement.
The controversy erupted last July after the JAAN launched a petition to urge companies that provided transportation service or venues for the circuses to end their support, in light of the dire conditions in which the dolphins were kept.
The online petition, at change.org/stopsirkuslumba, has garnered more than 90,000 signatures to date.
Source: Jakarta Globe