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Three bottlenose dolphins rescued from one Resort hotel in Indonesia in 2019 are now free swimming – after being rehabilitated by a specialist shelter.
The dolphin trio – Johnny, Rocky and Rambo – were rescued by the Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center.
According to the Associated Press, it is a dolphin care facility set up by the Indonesian government in Banyuwedang Bay, West Bali.
The Indonesian Forestry Ministry of Bali and the Ministry of Forestry are the two conservation agencies that established the rehab center, according to Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit that has partnered with the initiative.
According to the Dolphin Project, Umah Lumba is the Balinese word for dolphin.
The Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center takes in dolphins that have been retired from performances.
Johnny, Rocky and Rambo were released in Banyuwedang Bay on Saturday 3 September after three years of care from the rehabilitation center – which receives manpower from the Jakarta Animal Aid Network and financial support and oversight from the Dolphin Project.
“It was an incredibly emotional experience to see her go,” Lincoln O’Barry, an animal rights activist and campaign coordinator at the Dolphin Project, said in an interview with the Associated Press.
O’Barry, 50, is the son of Ric O’Barry, 82, who founded the Dolphin Project in 1970 after seeing the toll show business was taking on dolphins.
Ric O’Barry in the 1960s trained dolphins on the set of “Flipper,” a TV show that lasted three seasons.
Ric O’Barry then shifted his career from dolphin trainer to “dolphin defender” after show dolphin named Kathy, “who played pinball most of the time, died in his arms,” according to the Dolphin Project.
Father-and-son couple O’Barry were present at the release of Johnny, Rocky and Rambo.
The three dolphins were caught in Indonesia and spent years performing in traveling circuses before ending up in a small, chlorinated swimming pool at a resort hotel in north Bali, according to the Dolphin Project.
“Day after day, [they were] forced to perform during raucous theater shows for paying tourists,” the Dolphin Project wrote in a 2020 press release for the Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center.
The three dolphins sustained injuries during their captivity, the Dolphin Project reported.
Johnny, the eldest of the group, suffered skin damage, a pectoral fin injury, a corneal injury, malnutrition, and worn teeth that reached below his gumline.
That summer, Johnny received dental crowns that allow him to catch his own fish.
Rocky and Rambo reportedly gained weight and strength during their rehabilitation, according to the Dolphin Project.
When the Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center opened its underwater gates to free the three dolphins, Johnny, Rocky and Rambo didn’t leave immediately, the Associated Press reported.
According to reports, it took about an hour for the dolphins to come venture out into Banyuwedang Bay.
According to the Associated Press, Johnny was the first to leave.
The three dolphins reportedly circled the sanctuary, which they freed before exiting the area.
“They turned and came back to us one more time, almost to say thank you and goodbye,” Lincoln O’Barry said in a statement. “And then they went straight outside open ocean and disappeared.”
The Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center will monitor Johnny, Rocky and Rambo via GPS tracking, the news outlet reported.
“We don’t know where they’re going next,” O’Barry told the AP. “But we wish you a good long life.”
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the global population of bottlenose dolphins is approximately 600,000.
“Dolphins feed on fish and work cooperatively to herd their prey to the surface for easier feeding,” WWF wrote in a joint profile of bottlenose dolphins.
“Because they live so close to shore, they are threatened by bycatch, coastal development and environmental degradation.”
The Associated Press contributed coverage to this article.