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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

The Tasmanian Devil

I recently had the privilege of visiting Tasmania. It’s a beautiful island off the coast of Australia. One of the reasons for my visit was to catch a glimpse of a Tasmanian Devil, a marsupial that is on the brink of extinction because of a rare, contagious cancer. I was able to see a few devils at the Devils at Cradle Sanctuary and also at the home of a foster mother who is raising two joeys before their release to either a sanctuary or a disease-free island where a small population remains. If you’d like to learn more about the Tasmanian Devil and the work being done to keep them with us, here’s a link:  http:///www.devilsatcradle.com

Photos:  Jennifer SkiffTasmanian Joey (baby)

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Indonesia Animal Update

I’m thrilled to report that I have received an email from Mr. Agus Tabah, the Manager of the Jayakarta Suites Komodo Hotel. He has told me that the hotel has now released all the monkeys and geese from cages. This is wonderful news and proves that when you witness atrocities against other souls, you should speak up. Sometimes one voice can make positive change. Many voices can guarantee it! Thank you Jayakarta Suites for acknowledging the voices of your patrons and staff who have compassionate hearts.

The Divinity of Dogs in Italy!

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Good News!  The Divinity of Dogs has been published in Italian.  The fun part of authoring a book is when it gets picked up by publishers throughout the world and you get to see it in print, in different languages.  I now have a collection of my books printed, often with different covers, in French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Czech, and more.  This is my first time in Italian.  I think a celebratory trip to Italy is in order!

Indonesia Animals Update 3

A friend has gone to the hotel and has reported that the Porcupine and Monkeys do not have food or water.  I have contacted the manager.  Action is now required.

Indonesia Animals Update 2

An email was sent to the manager noting that there had been no response from the owners of the hotel regarding the offer of assistance for the animals.

Indonesia Animals Update 1

A formal letter and offer of assistance was sent to the manager of the Jayakarta Hotel, to be sent to the owners of the hotel.  The letter offers professional help and, if necessary, financial help, to create healthy enclosures for animals in their care.  An email was received from the manger stating that he would send pictures of the new water bowls.  The pictures were not received.

Positive Change in Indonesia

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Here’s my “vacation” news. After witnessing atrocities here in Flores, Indonesia, I met with my hotel manager and explained that I was here to make change.  And change we made: 12 monkeys freed from chains today. Nine released into idyllic jungle habitat. One enclosure rebuilt under my direction with ropes, toys, bamboo poles, and water bowls. Three monkeys, a family of a mother and two children released into large enclosure. Porcupine has renovated enclosure with matt floor and his own hollow log. Only wire cage floor, no water, and nothing else in enclosure before today. Proper water bowl promisedtomorrow. Four geese released from cage with no food or water. That was a sight to see them launch into a pond and drink! New roof on monkey enclosure. Most thankful was porcupine who ran out of his log tonight to greet me with coos and nose scratches. All monkeys before today were chained with no interaction with each other and NO access to water.

Miracle day. People wanted to make change. They needed the push. The promise of me promoting the hotel, helped. And, I will. The hotel is the Jayakarta, Flores, Indonesia. Well done to the manager Augus, for making it happen! As I left enclosure tonight, monkeys were together, grooming each other. Why were they left behind? That was the deal. They are free from the chains and have a large enclosure. I have a friend who stays here often and will report back. The truth remains… These people wanted change, wanted permission to help these animals and were thrilled to take part in the release and renovations. It would not have happened if many before me hadn’t complained. The compassion movement is alive!

I’m exhausted!
xx Jen