Bali, Indonesia. Not Paradise for All

I travel to Bali once a year to visit friends and to purchase items to auction for the charities I love.  This week I took my sister Katy for a day of adventures – a 26 kilometer bike ride down the Mount Batur volcano, a lunch with elephants and a rafting trip in a torrential downpour down the Ayung River.   It would have been a perfect day but it couldn’t be.  As I rode through villages I’ve visited often, I noticed change.

Cattle that once roamed the fields were tightly tied up on concrete stalls, ankle deep in their excrement, pigs were crated instead of roaming, and an innocent Asian Palm Civet, also known as a toddy cat, was caged in abominable conditions without water, its cage rattled by our tour guide who explained that because the animal ate coffee beans that some people thought its excrement tasted good.

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Asian Palm Civet

One of the things that had noticeably changed was that the Balinese people were following the western world by taking animals out of the fields and confining them their entire lives, until they were slaughtered.  I don’t know who originally said it was okay to start “factory farming” animals but it’s not.  Meat eaters and non-meat eaters would agree on this one.  And then there were the dogs, diseased and starving.

Having traveled many times to Indonesia I understand the dog overpopulation problem.  Most dogs are homeless.  This is no one’s fault and there are good organizations working to change the situation.  On this day I witnessed over one-hundred diseased, dying dogs and two instances where dogs were chained; one without water and the other, starved and close to death, being strangled by its chain.

Katy and I were being driven back to our villa and were on a busy road when out of the corner of my eye I saw something, something that defied explanation.

The Rescue

“Turn around,” I said to Newman, the driver.  “Please turn around.”  I hoped that what I thought I saw was incorrect but it wasn’t.  A dog was clinging to life on a tight rope made of wire; one move in any direction and it would be hanged by the choke collar around its neck.  I asked Newman to find the “owner.”

A woman came out of an alley with a knife. I could tell she already knew the dog was close to death and had ignored his cries for help.  Below the dog, two sows were lying in crates unable to move, locked in wire cages, crying.  My heart screamed.  I put my hands under the dog, trying to provide comfort and security as the woman fiddled with the bottom of the chain.  I reached toward the dog’s neck and tried to unlock the clasp attached to his collar but it wouldn’t release.  His tail thumped against me.  As I held him it was obvious, he was not “just” a street dog, he was a starved street dog.

Someone who claimed ownership of him by putting a collar around his neck had chained this innocent creature.  By chaining him, he was prevented from getting food from the Hindu offerings that most street dogs feed from.  Additionally, he was one slip of his paw away from hanging, his knotted chain leaving him in this predicament. To make matters worse, probably 100,000 people had driven past him in 24 hours and no one had helped him.  It was beyond comprehension.  How could you see that and not stop? How could you look away?  The chained was unraveled but the dog still couldn’t move.  Each claw had curled around a piece of wire as he clung for life.  His claws were frozen.  He could not release them.  He could not move his head.  I have no idea how long he had been in that position, with one movement in any direction causing certain death.

I lifted him gently, rocking him back and forth until one by one, his claws unhooked from the wire.  When he touched the ground, he was grateful, his tail wagging wildly.  The woman held the chain up and looked at me with disdain.  We didn’t speak the same language but I understood that she hated my interference and questioned what she was supposed to do with him now.  “Unchain him,” I said in English.  And with that, she slipped the choke collar off his head, threw it into the back of a truck and walked away.  The dog licked my leg and then went to Katy and licked her hand.  He then ran to a nearby pile of rice that had been dumped near the road and started eating.  He quickly ran down the road and I prayed he would not return to the same place but in my heart, I knew he would.  His loyalty had no boundaries.  I leaned into the truck, grabbed the choke collar and chains, and got into the car.  As we drove off, I said a prayer for the pigs who would soon meet their death.

While I always leave situations like this feeling disheartened, I do my best to follow up.  In this case, I have asked Bali Adventure Tours to require that the local people who participate in the tours take care of their animals by providing food, water and proper enclosures.  Word will quickly get around the village that tourists expect the kind treatment of animals.  It’s up to tourist operators to demand compassionate standards.  It’s up to us to tell the tourist operators, no matter where we are in the world when we witness abuse and neglect, that we require more.  Lastly, we have strong voices and can use them by reviewing our experiences on the Internet.  If you see something that you feel needs changing, post a review.  Reviews work to create change.

As for my friend in this picture, let his story help you break the chains when you see injustice.

To learn more about the good work being done to help animals on the island of Bali, Indonesia, go to this link and donate if you can:  http://www.bawabali.com 

UPDATE:  May 23, 2014:  I have received an assurance from Arifin Tirta Wijata at Bali Adventure Tours that they will kindly take advice from their staff veterinarian in regards to treating the chained black dog I met on the trip.  Staff will administer treatment for parasites and mange and will speak to the owner about proper care, including the need for food, water and shelter.  

They will also speak to issues raised regarding proper living environments for the confined palm civet.  I have asked Arifin to please provide photographs, which I will share to you upon receipt.  The website for Bali Adventure Tours and the Elephant Safari Park is:  http://www.baliadventuretours.com and http://www.elephantsafaripark.com   Never be afraid to speak up when you see atrocities committed against others.  Your voice will create change.  Jen