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The Sea Shepherd: “Are you willing to die for a whale?”

“All systems of oppression need to be challenged,” said a speaker at the Bali Vegan Festival in Ubud, Bali last month.   Doing just that since 1977, Sea Shepherd,  a non-governmental, non-profit environmental organization, has been using direct action tactics [along with lots of media attention]  to protect marine life [and to educate consumers].


Sea Shepherd seeking poachers

If you want to volunteer on a Sea Shepherd crew, you will be asked that question, “Are you willing to die for a whale?”  The boats carry no guns but use film and public education to achieve incredible  change.  Their important work continues.

Sea Shepherd claims responsibility for damaging or sinking multiple whaling ships, through sabotage or ramming. The group has attempted to intervene against Russian, Spanish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Makah, Faroese, and Japanese whalers in multiple campaigns around the globe.  Those actions have included scuttling and disabling commercial whaling vessels at harbor, using limpet mines (a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets) to blow holes in ship hulls,  ramming other vessels, throwing glass bottles of  butyric acid (stinky rancid butter) on the decks of vessels at sea, boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizing  and destroying drift nets  at sea.   Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson has said that the organization has  destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment.  The Sea Shepherd media extravaganzas have highlighted whaling, long-line fishing nets, and shark fining to get people everywhere informed and conscious of the destruction of life in our oceans.


Scalloped Hammerhead Shark – over fished, few regulatory guidelines

Some shark populations have decreased by 60-70% due to shark fisheries.


Scalloped Hammerhead Shark


image from:

Gary Stokes, Asia Director for Sea Shepherd, has spent the past 10 years on documenting, investigating, and exposing the shark fin trade. He was a guest speaker at the Bali Vegan Festival in Ubud last month.  Indonesia is the #1 exporter of shark fins; Spain #2.


Shark fin    Image from <ocean-news/shark-finning-sharks-turned-prey>

There is much economic pressure to ignore the international bans on shark finning.

Fishermen often choose to keep just the shark fins—only one to five percent of a shark’s weight—and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat. The finned sharks are often thrown back alive into the ocean, where unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they suffocate or die of blood loss.  Shark meat sold to restaurants and markets is often used in seafood curries and stews.


Shark fin soup – a sign of status at $100 U.S. a bowl.

Image from:

Gary says that now 60% of the fish and seafood in our oceans are in terrible condition. Global fishing fleets are now at 2.5 times the sustainable level.  Just one poaching boat, the “Lafayette” which works the waters off Chili and Peru around the Faroe Islands processes 1,500 tons of fish a day!!    Much of that is Chilean tooth fish; in restaurants, it’s called “Chilean Sea Bass.”  😦  Much of caught sea food goes to animal feed.

“Chilean sea bass”/ tooth fish

A result of Sea Shepherd and other activists groups like Greenpeace and loud voices, many people now know to make conscious choices.

According to a National Geographic article, we now know to “look for the blue eco-label of the Marine Stewardship Council, or ask where in the world the fish comes from. . .[to] help you find the best and avoid the rest”

Stokes reports that forty percent of the tuna that comes into the U.S. is from illegal, unreported fisheries in Thailand.  And forty percent of all fish caught is used for animal feed. 😦  If the world continues to consume and destroy marine life at the current rates, Stokes says that by 1948 there will be no fish!


The Sea Shepherd Fleet now has nine ships including the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker, and the Brigette Bardot.


Shark products.   Ask where, how, and by whom the fish were caught.


Sea Shepherd goes after ships that  fish illegally

Recently, Sea Shepherd Asia had a hiatus, a year off, when Japan temporarily halted whale hunting.   Gary and his team got to go after other notorious pirate fishing vessels.  For 110 days, a Sea Shepherd ship chased the “Thunder” – #1 on the Interpol list of pirate fishing vessels.  Finally, the captain of the “Thunder” sunk his own ship rather than be caught with the incriminating evidence of illegal fishing!!    But while part of the Sea Shepherd crew was saving the “Thunder” crew, other Sea Shepherd volunteers entered the sinking ship in time to collect computers and other evidence that has the captain and crew serving time in a Nigerian jail.  [It would seem the owners of the pirate ships should be in jail too].  The photo above shows what has happened to other illegal fishing boats that Sea Shepherd has targeted.

Gary says of the ocean marine life, “We are losing everything.”  We must all learn and act.

So why was Gary invited to speak at the Vegan Fest?  The people who volunteer for the Sea Shepherd crews are ardent animal activists.  Many are vegans.  Since 2002, all Sea Shepherd vessels serve only vegan meals.  It would be hypocritical, says Gary, to eat meat while chasing people who are killing marine life.   Gary has been a vegetarian since 1980.  When he first started going out on Sea Shepherd missions, Gary was more worried about what he would get to eat than about the possible confrontations the crew would meet.  But, he has learned that the vegan meals are delicious, healthy, and accommodate everyone on board, and all religions.


Vegan meals on the Sea Shepherd

The Sea Shepherd logo – a pirate to protect marine life:



“If the oceans die, we die! We cannot live on this planet with a dead ocean,” said Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson

Watch the following documentaries; you will likely cry, cheer, and laugh.

Paul Watson: The Whale Warrior: A Pirate for the Sea


Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist – a full documentary film

Seafood Watch has a free app for iPhone and Android that’s updated as recommendations change.

Please be ocean-friendly when you shop for seafood.  Even better, eat vegetarian/vegan.  Think about it.  And tell your friends.  Do what you can do.

Remember that ardent animal rights Sea Shepherd crews don’t have guns.  Gary Stokes says that even one pissed off vegan is a force to be reckoned with.

Full steam ahead, Sea Shepherd.  We need you now more than ever.

Aloha, Renée


Bali: Monkeys


In the Monkey Forest Sanctuary – monkeys in the trees and on the ground. rr photo

Filtered sunlight makes its way through the tall canopy, the stone statues of snakes and monkeys, the ornate temples, and the calls of monkeys create an eerie, spirit-filled setting.  Visitors follow trails; a deep ravine runs through the park grounds, at the bottom flows a rocky stream. The heavily forested and hilly Ubud Monkey Forest covers about 27 acres (10 hectares) containing at least 115 different species of trees and over 600 crab-eating  macaques (Balinese long-tailed macaques).


Crab-eating Macaque and her baby. rr photo

The monkeys roam freely – doing all their monkey business – in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud. Although these macaques are called “crab-eating,”  they often eat fruits and many other things; they are native to Southeast Asia and often used in research.  Since they  are most active during the day, visitors can observe their activities – caring for their young, mating, fighting, and grooming  – at close range.


Monkeys hang out on the walkway railing in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo

Five groups of monkeys inhabit the park, each occupying different territories.  In recent years here, the monkey population has become larger than a natural environment could support, so conflicts between the groups are unavoidable, but it also means that visitors can see more monkeys here than in the wild.


Monkeys playing in the trees above. rr photo

Know that the monkeys are interested in any food you have.  So, don’t be casually walking along enjoying your fresh young coconut.  You are likely – actually guaranteed – to be jumped.  Likewise, monkeys can smell food in your backpack; don’t count on just hiding your food.


This monkey down by the stream is trying to open a coconut. rr photo

The Monkey Forest park staff feed the monkeys sweet potatoes and other vegetables three times a day, providing them with their main source of food in the park, and so, the monkeys here are usually not as super naughty as in some other places.


Monkeys being fed corn-on-the cob. rr photo

In general, monkeys will not come up to you if you do not bring bananas or any other food.  But they are smart and curious, and they may think you have food in that bag you are carrying, and they know how to take a lid off a bottle in search of whatever delightful drink they think you might have there. We saw a female trying valiantly to crack open a coconut by hitting it repeatedly with the side of her hand.  She used a folded leaf to cushion the blow to her hand.


Monkey working to unbutton this girl’s pocket. rr photo

Once as I was walking along Monkey Forest Road and not even in the sanctuary, a monkey, a  BIG monkey, climbed up my leg to check out the bottle I was carrying.  When he saw it was only a plastic bottle of water, he climbed back down.  Luckily – and surprisingly to me, I didn’t freak out.  I was very happy I was wearing pants.


See the monkey on this girl’s back? It’s working on unzipping her backpack. rr photo.

Monkey Forest Sanctuary site recommendations include:

  • Leave any non-essential bags and bottles at the ticket counter.
  • Do not bring in food or drinks to the park.
  • Do not feed the monkeys peanuts, biscuits, bread, or any other human snacks because they are detrimental to monkey health.  Some of the monkeys are now obese 😦 from such feeding.  You may give the monkeys bananas that can be purchased at the entrance, but use care in giving the bananas.
  •   Never-
    • scream
    • pull at a monkey or
    • move suddenly.
  • Do hang on to, or better yet, hide –
    • caps,
    • earrings,
    • cameras,
    • phones,
    • pens,
    • glasses,
    • or whatever might be taken.  Don’t have anything shiny, money sticking out of your pocket, or your computer available in your open bag.
  • If you do feed the monkeys, always look out for the claws and teeth of the dominant male.  He should be given food first to avoid fighting or you getting bitten.
  • Don’t get close to the babies.  Especially don’t get between a mom and her baby.
  • When you smile, don’t show your teeth.  In monkey understanding, this is considered an aggressive gesture.  Monkey grimaces are indicators of inferiority while panting and open-mouthed threats are indicators of dominance.
  • If you have a child with you, be particularly careful.

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary staff in the green uniforms are throughout the park in case you need assistance.


Some people hold bananas above their heads to encourage monkeys to climb up to their shoulders – in order to get a “cool” photo. That is really not a good idea. rr photo

Even if you are careful, it is possible to get scratched or bitten.  The monkeys are wild animals, and they are not afraid of humans.  I haven’t heard of monkeys having rabies here, but some dogs do.  Although dogs aren’t allowed in the sanctuary, I’ve seen a monkey and a young, rambunctious dog near the park entrance scraping over a bit of food.  So don’t take chances.  A puncture wound or even a scratch in a humid, hot climate such as Bali’s can quickly become infected.  Seek immediate medical attention even if your wound seems minor.


Monkeys here, monkeys there, monkeys all around. rr photo

Even with all these cautions, I recommend that you go to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  Except for that one curious, climbing-up-my-leg monkey, I haven’t had any others bother me.  They are fun to watch.  And it’s fun to watch tourists interact with the monkeys too.


Tourists feeding monkeys at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. photo from MFS website.


A monkey statue – and a real monkey in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo


On a hot day, the monkeys like to cool off in their Monkey Forest Sanctuary pool. rr photo

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary  is not only a tourist attraction with about 10,000 visitors a  month but also an important site in the spiritual  life of the local community. The Monkey Forest grounds are home to three Hindu temples, all apparently constructed around 1350!


Temple in Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo

The Main Temple is used for worshiping a personification of Shiva, the transformer. The Pura Beji Temple is a “Holy Spring” bathing temple, a place of spiritual and physical cleansing and purification prior to religious ceremonies.


Temple pool – holy water. rr photo

The Prajapati Temple is used to pray for procreation and the protection of life. A cemetery adjacent to this temple receives the bodies of the deceased for temporary burial while they await a mass cremation ceremony (because of the extremely high costs), held approximately every five years.


Monkeys among the graves. rr photo

The temples play an important role in the spiritual life of the local community, and the monkey and its mythology are important in the Balinese art tradition. The Monkey Forest area is sanctified by the local community, and some sacred areas of the temples are closed to everyone except those willing to pray and to wear proper Balinese praying attire.

On-going research and conservation programs also happen here with researchers from  around the world  focusing particularly on the monkey social interaction and behavior with their surrounding environment.

So go to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary for the monkeys, the trees, the temples.  Especially if you are aware, you will have fun.

Selamat jalan, Renée

Information from:

“The Holy Monkey Forest of Sangeh” by Bill Dalton, Bali Advertiser, 26 Sept. – 12 Oct. 2016, p 26.

Text and photos from:

Thought for the Day: Balinese Saying

Be like the humble rice stalk.


Rice stalks heavy with ripening grain in a Jalan Bisma field. rr photo

As the rice grows in its nutritional value, the further it bows.

Be humble about your gifts.

Salam,  Renée

Sign: “We are for sale . . .”


“WE ARE FOR SALE.  Please call my brother Wayan.”

Sign on Jalan Tirta Tawar – on the way to Om Ham Retreat, Bali.

Selamat jalan, Renée

Sign: We have wifi . . .


Couple out for dinner and music at the Laughing Buddha on Jalan Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali. rr photo

Modern life – everywhere.


Sign at the frozen yogurt shop on Jalan Dewasita, Ubud. rr photo

Just a reminder – to all of us – to pay attention to those we are with.

Aloha, Renée

Bali Fruit: Snakeskin (Salak)

Snakeskin fruit or salak is new to me.   “A native fruit from Indonesia and Malaysia, the snakeskin fruit grow in clusters at the base of the palm.   The taste is usually sweet and acidic, like a cross between a crunchy sweet apple and a pineapple, but its texture can vary from very dry and crumbly to moist and crunchy. . .[Here in Bali, the ones I’ve had are moist and crunchy – and delicious.]   This palm grows to 10 feet tall, is very thorny, and produces fruits in large clusters. Plants are self pollinating. Likes filtered sunlight.”


To peel, start by pinching off the tip.  rr photo

Snakeskin fruit are refreshing  and very popular in SE Asia.


Snakeskin fruit at the base of the palm.

Image and information from: <>.


Partially peeled snakeskin fruit. rr photo


The fruit divides into clove-like pieces. rr photo


snakeskin fruit pit. rr photo

They are delicious on their own, but adding them to a salad gives an added good flavor and crunch.


Snakeskin salad from

Raw Vegan Energy Salad:


3 whole Salak [Snakeskin fruit] -Peel, pitted and cut into strips

1 Avocado – Cut into cube

1 tbsp Goji Berries

1 tbsp Pumpkin Seeds

1/2 cup Pineapple cube

3 pcs Medjool Dates – Pitted, cut into strips

3 leaves Iceberg Lettuce [or your favorite lettuce]  – Torn


1/2 pcs Lemon-Squeezed for juice

1/4 tsp Paprika

1/2 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Ground Cumin

pinch of Natural Sea Salt

Dash Black Pepper


Prepare all the ingredients in salad bowl,

Just before serving. Pour dressing over salad and lightly toss.

There you go! The super tasty Raw Delightful Salak Salad !

Recipe from

Look for snakeskin fruit.  I think you will love it too.

Salamat Makan,  (Enjoy your meal), Renée

Thought for the Day: The more I handled things . . .

“The more I handled things

and learned their names and uses

the more joyous and confident

grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the  world”

– Helen Keller


Egret in Bali rice field. rr photo

Aloha, Renée

Coconuts – virgin coconut oil

Endless Benefits, Endless Uses – Coconut trees have been used for thousands of years for building materials, food, oil, milk, water, medicine, a high energy fuel source, and more. (In the 2010 movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks survived on coconuts – so we know how important they can be).


Given proper care and growing conditions, coconut palms produce their first fruit in six to ten years, taking 15 – 20 years to reach peak production.  In good conditions, coconuts grow rapidly once established, can produce up to 100 coconuts a year, and live to be 100 years old.

Virgin or cold pressed (non-refined, non-bleached and non-deodorized) coconut oil is often described as a super oil, the “healthiest oil on earth,” and thanks to its important health benefits, it has been declared the new power food.  Extensive research confirms that those who use coconut oil are healthier, have less heart disease, cancer, and colon problems than unsaturated fat eaters.

In a Bali Advertiser feature article, Ines Wynn, notes,

“The Health Benefits of cold pressed Virgin Coconut Oil are numerous; its major properties include:

  • Nutrient rich:  It is nature’s richest source of lauric acid, which protects your heart by reducing total cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.  It has a small amount of vitamins and minerals like choline, iron, and, important for cardiovascular health, vitamin E and vitamin K.
  • Thyroid-stimulating: Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (triglycerides) that stimulate metabolism and give you more energy.
  • Diabetes inhibitor: Helps keep diabetes in check.  It does not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream.  Instead it helps control blood sugar by improving the secretion of insulin.
  • Immune system supporter:  The rich lauric acid supports the body’s immune system.
  • Candida inhibitor:  Coconut oil has a good quantity of caprylic acid in it which is well known to kill off excess candida by targeting harmful bacteria.
  • Weight loss aid: Even though it is a fat, it actually helps with weight loss.  The medium chain fatty acids do not circulate in the bloodstream like other fats; they are sent directly to the brain
  • Brain nourishment: Studies show that it improves cognitive function, and stalls, or even reverses, neurodegenerative diseases in their early stages.
  • Skin protection: When applied externally, it forms a protective antibacterial layer shielding the infected body part.  Also, coconut oil speeds up the healing process of bruises by helping to repair damaged tissue.

Although refined vegetable oils are now known to have low heat tolerances and release toxins called aldehydes when heated to high temperature, Virgin Coconut Oil is heat resistant and due to its high levels of anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties does not go rancid even after one year at room temperature. Virgin Coconut Oil has no detrimental side effects and unlike other vegetable oils, it does not form harmful by-products.

Worldwide, eleven million farmers in 90 countries grow coconut.  Over 80% are situated in Asia-Pacific, with Indonesia and the Philippines being the largest producers.  Virtually all these farmers are poor and receive little benefit for their toil. Consequently they are not investing in replanting, and coconut plantations have declined as a result. Possibly as much as 30% of the Indonesian coconut plantation area is considered as senile, meaning very low productivity.


Drying coconut husks – Bal. rr photo

Generally, consumers are unaware that Virgin Coconut Oil may be produced in various ways.  Most virgin coconut oil in Indonesia is derived from coconut milk, generally as a by-product of the large desiccated coconut industry [copra].  In the same way, many consumers are unaware that most coconut water packed in Tetra Pak is made from mature coconut water derived from other bulk processing coconut industries.


Tetra Pak containers

Image from: <;.

However, virgin coconut oil is suitable for human consumption in its natural state immediately after extraction and filtration requiring no return to the original copra trade model of production” (27).

A good link for information about the difference between copra production of coconut oil (the most common and cheapest available coconut oil) and that of virgin coconut oil, go to

In part, that article says,  a villager “first gathers coconuts that have fallen on the ground, cuts the nut in half and removes the white coconut meat. The coconut meat is then usually dried on a rack over a fire (they call them copra smokers) which helps to dry out the coconut meat and it turns a grey colour and has a rancid smell. The biggest and most abundant amount of wild coconuts are found in remote villages scattered across the Pacific and Asia. Sometime it can take up to 3-4 months before the villagers can get their bags of smoked copra to the big copra mills in town. The mills are usually situated 100’s of miles away from these villagers. The copra mills resemble a smaller version of a sugar crushing mill and processing of the copra is similar to that found in the sugar mills. The copra is pressed and because the coconut is very smoky or rancid they use chemicals to bleach and clean the oil. This happens in all the basic edible food oils today in the market place. This is also the reason why this style of COCONUT OIL (Copra) processing became known in the old days as poor man’s oil or dirty oil.”

albert copra

Sun drying copra (coconut meat) on Rabi Island, Fuji

The writer also warns, “Today because of the high demand for Virgin Coconut Oil many unscrupulous manufacturers [or companies that are more focused on making their shareholders happy] are getting cheap copra oils and running them through centrifuge spinning machines to clean up the oils and also state they are ORGANIC. While the centrifuges remove the smell and all flavour from the oils the Copra COCONUT OIL is a much thicker oil that will NOT quickly absorb into the skin and does contain TRANS FAT. Except for a higher level of lauric acid it is very similar to all other trans fat food oils on the market due to the processing. If you put this type of oil on your skin it is just that OIL and will clog the pores of your skin.”

Image and text from-

This is again another example that we should know our farmers and how our food is produced and processed.


However, today “in Bali and other parts of Indonesia, Kokonut Pacific, an internationally focused organization, is actively involved in establishing virgin coconut oil and down-stream value added opportunities [coconut water, coconut skim milk, and coconut flour. . .] for small scale coconut farmers, using an entirely different approach to making Virgin Coconut Oil.  By taking the processing right back to the farm level, it enables rural families to produce pure virgin oil within one hour of opening their coconuts.  These coconuts are grown and processed locally and organically, without the use of fertilizers or other chemical inputs. . . .


Direct Micro Expelling® for Fresh Coconut Oil

Dr. Dan Etherington – a pioneer of VCO – from Kokonut Pacific Australia, invented DMR (Direct Micro Expelling) technology, a process that  produces pure, natural, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil from fresh coconuts.  Currently, this technology is being used in Bali, Java, and Sulawesi where Kokonut Pacific works collaboratively with over 600 certified organic farms in projects designed to be models of sustainable healthy living for the individual and for the planet.

VCO is available in many retail outlets.  But be a discerning customer.  Not all oils labeled Virgin Coconut Oil are that.  Many are mixed with other vegetable oils and the labels do not always indicate that.  buy from a reputable palace and avoid the cheap varieties.

If you want to combine being good to your body with being good to your soul, look for SoleOil, an organic VCO marketed by Yayasan Solemen, one of the most visible NGS in Bali.


SoleOil’s story is rather special.  Together with the Tree of Life Project Bali it aims to support the small-scale farmer project in Tabanan while receiving Rp 10k per bottle for Solemen’s many projects.  The SoleOil project is not only a way to support small-scale farmers, it also is a means to empower rural women whose access to a sustainable business is restricted by their location.


VCO – SoleOil

From a food crop to a health crop, coconut is now becoming a sunrise industry.  It is best positioned to become the world’s healthiest sustainable plant-based edible oil.  At a time when concerns of agricultural productivity and global nutrition form a central part of policy development for all countries, the coconut palm offers an opportunity for a viable alternative to unsustainable, harmful mono-culture agricultural systems.  . .

When properly handled, coconut culture means zero disruption to biomass or peat soils.  No clearing of rain forest.  No displacement of local populations.  Coconut palms are a valuable, existing, in ground plant-based resource of healthy nutrition and numerous downstream products.

To read more about Virgin Coconut Oil and the DME production process, go to

Text from: Wynn, Ines. “The Tree of Life Project in Bali.”  Bali Advertiser, 12 – 26 October, 2016, p. 27.

Be healthy.  Have coconuts in your life.


A coconut to drink – and Virgin Coconut Oil dressing on my salad. Wonderful! rr photo

Aloha, Renée

Photos from: SoleOil, NaturePacific, & Kokonut Pacific.

What Do You See?

Especially when traveling, you see how other people do things differently.  One wonderful aspect of Bali is there are no homeless people.  I know that is a sweeping generalization, but I haven’t seen one person sleeping on the street!   I wish I could say the same for Maui, the U.S., many other places in the world.   Everyone has a home here mainly because they live in family compounds and take care of each other.  Much of Bali land is government owned or controlled by the villages, so those who live in a family compound can’t sell the land.  Even when they were colonized by the Dutch for 350 years, the Balinese kept control of their land, so they had their family home and family fields for shelter and food – for everyone.

In about 1930, Balinese began importing tin roofs (instead of using the grasses and having their neighbors help them thatch it – thus creating roof that would last 15-20 years – for free).  Then they started importing cars – and needing money.  Until that time, Bali could be considered one of the richest places on Earth.  Because this traditional society was controlled by the village and temple laws, there was not much difference between the richest and poorest people in a village.  Everyone got water for their family fields  (a real “trickle-down” theory in practice).  The system was so efficient that most people needed to work only four months a year to sustain themselves and their families; the rest of the year was dedicated to their art, temple, and family!

How’s that for a terrific idea that we could use?

(Source Hickman Powell’s The Last Paradise: An American’s Discovery of Bali in the 1920’s).  <>


Balinese temple – the center of community life.  rr photo

Even now that they have to work year round, most Balinese are artists: dancers, musicians, painters, carvers, mask makers,  weavers . . . .  We could learn much from the Balinese.


The carved door to the kitchen at Agus Ayu Cottages in Ubud! Beauty and art are everywhere here. rr photo


Carved statues, wooden plank tables, embedded stones at Nick’s Restaurant on Jalan Bisma. rr photo

But since an outsider can often see what a local does not,  I’ve noticed since I was last here in 2014, the trend in Bali to keep caged birds.  Bali is tropical; birds are everywhere.  Just look out your window.  Farmers in the rice fields are chasing birds away from the ripe grain.  If you want more birds, you can just put out some bird seed.  On Jalan Bisma, sometimes a van of tourists come to bird watch.


Birders on Jalan Bisma. rr photo

Why would you cage them?


Caged birds at a tourist home stay.  rr photo


Do you need a caged bird to entertain you while you eat a pizza? rr photo

While I’ve been here in Bali, I’ve read that although Balinese don’t eat dog meat, other people do. “Dog theft here is rampant, be it by agents of the dreaded . . . dog meat restaurants, or by thieves looking to sell a breed dog . . .  at the famous ‘pasar burung’ in Denpasar where many breed dogs are sold on. . . In desperation to retrieve their beloved stolen pet, owners offer a considerable financial reward on posters and flyers which sadly can encourage further theft (though the owner is left no choice really but to go down this route).  Even if dog meat thieves are caught, they are seldom punished with any severity – and as long as they keep getting away with it, they will keep doing it ” (Pet Care” Bali Advertiser, 12-26 Oct. 2016 p. 50).

Also while I’ve been here, I’ve seen the New York Times, “Big Food Photo Essay”:


Calves  – a herd animal –  are kept from their mothers.

Product: Dairy calves
Facility: Calf Source
Location: Greenleaf, Wisc.
Capacity: Approximately 10,000 calves at any given time

Newborn females arrive from local dairies and spend their first 180 days at Calf Source — first in one of 4,896 hutches, like the ones seen here, and then in larger group pens. Trucks pass down each of 72 rows, dispensing water and milk. After a transfer to Heifer Source, another facility owned by the Milk Source company, the cows are inseminated and then returned — seven months pregnant, and just under 2 years old — to the dairies they came from.


What’s life like for these turkeys? What about the worker?

Product: Turkeys
Facility: Gary’s Gobblers
Location: Northeastern Iowa
Output: 150,000 turkeys per year

During its busiest season, Gary’s Gobblers might have up to 60,000 turkeys living on five acres of its 160-acre facility. The worker seen here is spraying an antibacterial solution into the turkey pens to prevent disease.

Calf and turkey photos and text from:

During the Bali Vegan Festival, I attended the talk, “The Plight of the Bali Dog.”  The facts about the dogs were bad – but also hopeful with information about what organizations such as BARC are doing to meet the challenges.  What surprised me the most was what a young woman from India attending the talk said in response to my question about the Balinese Hindus offering animal sacrifices to their gods.

I know India is a complex country, the world’s most populous democracy, the land of Gandhi, and ahimsa (seeing the spark of the divine within each person).  India is a country where you are confronted with big questions about glittering wealth and abject poverty – and where the Hindu majority religion respects the lives of animals.  Indians  make up two thirds of the world’s population of vegetarians – and Indian food is healthy and delicious.


Young woman originally from India at the Bali Vegan Festival

What the Indian woman told me was very surprising to me:

1) Today – vegetarian, respect for animal life – India is one of the biggest exporter of beef cattle in the world!!!    According to a 2015 CNN news report, “India was the world’s top beef exporter last year.  That’s because India exports large quantities of meat from water buffalo — a member of the bovine family classified as beef by the USDA. . . .  Meat now earns India more export dollars than basmati rice. . .

India’s buffalo meat — a chewier and cheaper alternative to beef — mostly ends up on plates in Asia and the Middle East, where rising wealth is spurring demand among diners for animal protein. . . .

The cow is revered in Hindu culture, the religion observed by roughly 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people, and restrictions on cattle slaughter apply in most states. . .

Still, the $4.8 billion annual export trade has almost developed by accident — the animals are needed to keep India’s huge domestic dairy industry going, said Rabobank analyst Pawan Kumar.

This is unique among countries with large bovine exports, Kumar said. It also means buffalo meat from India is cheaper. That helped the country generate record export earnings from the beef last year, although growth is moderating from the 30% annual rate seen between 2010 to 2013.

Here’s where it all goes: Vietnam is the top importer, with Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia other key markets.

Then there’s China, which may actually be the largest consumer of the meat, according to Rabobank’s Kumar. Some 40% of Indian buffalo is sent to Vietnam, before large quantities make their way across the Chinese border.

The Indian woman told me a second fact shocked me even more than the first:

2) Some Hindus offer animal sacrifice to their gods – as a gift of the best food.

According to the November 2014 Daily Mail  article, “Animals are being lined up for slaughter as Nepal embarks on a two-day religious festival where buffalo, birds and goats are sacrificed to appease a Hindu goddess.

Millions of Hindus flock to the ceremony, which is held every five years at the temple of Gadhimai, the goddess of power, in Bariyarpur, Nepal, near the Indian border. . .

In 2009, more than 250,000 animals were killed, according to animal rights organization PETA, who is campaigning to put a stop to the practice.”

The meat from the slaughtered animals is usually given to meat eaters (but how long does it take for the meat of those thousands of buffalo killed in a field to be refrigerated?).
Since 2009, activists have been working with the government to stop the sacrifices but although there were fewer animals slaughtered in 2014, the ritual still continues.
What do you see where you are?
Wherever you are in the world, there are practices that we might want to emulate.
For instance, can we ensure that everyone has shelter and food as the Balinese have done so well for hundreds of years?  Can we change our frantic pace of striving for  more and more money and more and more things to have time to develop our artistic abilities and to spend time with our family and community as the Balinese do?
And what behaviors can we help change?
Look around. Be aware.  What can you do to make the world better for others – and yourself – wherever you are?
Aloha & Salam, Renée

Bali: Rabies in 2016? – official and on-the-street views

Attenders at “The Plight of the Bali Dog,” during the Bali Vegan Festival – including a puppy up for adoption.


Bali dogs – the one in the background is a puppy, already independent and on the streets. rr photo

In trying to answer the question about rabies now in Bali, I had first to look back several years.

Until the outbreak of rabies in 2008, Bali had been rabies free for over 10 years.

In her 2010 column, “What You Need to Know About the Rabies Epidemic in Bali”  at, Ibu Kat writes:

“The epidemic began in late 2008 in Uluwatu, probably introduced by pet dogs travelling with fishermen from other islands. A localized outbreak in such a remote area should have been easy to contain, but the World Health Organization (WHO) international protocols on rabies were not complied with. The virus soon spread to Denpasar and is now present in almost every regency on Bali.

Sanglah’s rabies clinic is treating about 1000 dog bites a month. Often there is no rabies vaccine (Verorab). Even more rarely available is immunoglobulin (SAR), the essential drug which must also be administered within one week into and around the wound if the bite or scratch has broken the skin. Two small boys were bitten last month and given the vaccine, but the immunoglobulin was not available. Both quickly died. Even when it is available, the cost of the drug is very high and depends on body weight — from Rp 6 million [U.S. $461] for a child to over Rp 20 million [U.S. $1,538] for a large adult. [Salaries here are about U.S. $1.00 an hour, so those life-saving drugs are not available to most local Balinese].

It’s not just Balinese being bitten. SOS International Clinic sees up to 300 dog bites a year, mostly tourists. The clinic always has a stock of the rabies vaccine but rarely has immunoglobulin. Because of this situation, travelers who don’t have the pre-exposure rabies vaccination often have to leave Bali urgently in order to obtain treatment elsewhere.”

Kim Patra, a Midwife & Nurse Practioner who has been living and working in Bali for over 30 years and now runs her own Private Practice & Mothers & Babies center at her Community Health Care office in Sanur, notes –

Symptoms –
The first symptoms of rabies are flu-like, including fever, headache and fatigue, and then progress to involve the respiratory, gastrointestinal and/or central nervous systems. In the critical stage, signs of hyperactivity (furious rabies) or paralysis (dumb rabies) dominate. In both furious and dumb rabies, some paralysis eventually progresses to complete paralysis, followed by coma and death in all cases, usually due to breathing failure. Without intensive care, death occurs during the first seven days of illness.. .



In another column,  Ibu Kat gave more information rabies situation in 2010.  Much is still true today:


There is very little public information about the rabies epidemic on Bali. Although there’s now plenty of high quality dog vaccine on Bali and the government has received a million dollars from Australia to aggressively fight the epidemic, the human death toll continues to rise. The latest count is 40 deaths from rabies, 32 of them at Sanglah Hospital. The real number is probably higher, given the remoteness and poverty of many villages and the practice of burying or cremating bodies on the day of death without an autopsy.

BAWA [Bali Animal Welfare Association] staff member Dayu says, “We know that recently two families and a young Australian had to fly out. At least one American has been seriously bitten and did not receive immunoglobulin. We estimate three tourists a week report dog bites to us.”

This is not good for tourism.

Back in January [2010], seven international rabies specialists visited Bali at BAWA’s invitation and spent three days sharing WHO experiences and protocols with their Indonesian colleagues. Their advice was simple and clear. “Culling dogs has never been effective in controlling rabies or managing dog populations. Bali should immediately stop culling dogs and focus all its human and material resources on vaccinating all the dogs it can and ensuring vaccine is available to people who are bitten”[my emphasis].


Adelle – the great Bali dog where we are staying makes us feel at home – and protects us from any roving dog. BK photo

Dr Darryn Knobel, who has a PhD in rabies control and works with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), gave a presentation on the ineffectiveness of culling (killing) dogs. In the past, governments in the developing world tried to control rabies in this way, but it has never been effective in either stopping the virus or reducing dog populations for long. At one point Sri Lanka and Ecuador killed a large percentage of their dogs (Ecuador 24%) without stopping rabies epidemics. When rabies arrived in Flores over a decade ago (again, with fishermen’s dogs from another island), up to 48% of the dogs were culled in some regencies. But there is still rabies in Flores; rabies can exist at dog densities as low as 5 dogs per square kilometre. Bangkok killed half a million dogs between 1997 and 2000, but there was no change in the number of human deaths and no effect on dog population growth.

Dr Knobel cited Mexico, Tanzania and Channai, India (with one of the highest rabies rates in the world) as locations that brought rabies under control with mass dog vaccinations and good medical services for humans. No culling was done in these locations.

In developing countries, between 25 – 50% of the general dog population dies every year. So if you eliminate that many, you are only replacing one type of mortality with another. The population loss is quickly offset by the rapid growth rate in the remaining population. Dr Knobel mentions that even in areas with the highest recorded rates of culling, populations swiftly recovered.

When culling takes place, the survivors no longer have to compete so hard for food or territory. Better nourished dogs have bigger litters, and more of these puppies survive. Very soon you have at least as many dogs (all unvaccinated) as you started with. And, until the dog population recovers, lots more rats. Frederick Knowlton reported in 1972 that coyotes bear an average of 4.3 pups at high population densities, but 6.9 pups when hunted down to low densities, making more food available. This proved to be the key to understanding why hunting or poisoning almost any canine is futile in controlling population.

Culling also encourages a couple of dangerous human behaviours. When a banjar’s [village] dogs are eliminated, Balinese families soon feel they want another dog. They quickly replace the culled dogs with unvaccinated puppies brought in from [possibly] infected areas. Or when culling starts, people move their dogs to a rabies-free area to prevent them being killed. Of course if these dogs are already infected, they transmit rabies to the new area. This could be why the epidemic is so widespread in Bali. (Infected dogs may not show symptoms for up to a year.)

Dogs are very territorial. Eliminating dogs from a banjar means that outside dogs can move in. A population of vaccinated dogs is the banjar’s best protection against infiltration by unvaccinated, possibly rabid dogs. Ironically, the maligned Bali street dog has an important role to play in preventing strange, unvaccinated dogs from entering their territory (providing, of course, that they have been vaccinated).

Sixteen villages in Gianyar have had confirmed rabies-positive dogs including, in the Ubud area, Peliatan, Sayan, Jukit Paku, Andong, Mas, Tegallalang, Abanagan and Gentong. Almost all of the infected dogs were owned; they were not street dogs except in the sense that most dogs in Bali wander the streets during the day and return to their compounds at night. The rabies epidemic in Bali is not being spread by packs of wild dogs. It is being carried by owned dogs. And only urgent mass vaccination can control it.

Vaccinating dogs against rabies is hard work. The four BAWA teams, in cooperation with the Dinas Perternakan, leave before six every morning in vans equipped with large catching nets and high quality vaccine. In the hot sun and the pouring rain they capture, vaccinate and mark every dog they can find in complying banjars, keeping careful records as they go. These days, they are vaccinating about 500 dogs a day in Gianyar Regency. But BAWA can only use the WSPA-provided vaccine in banjars which sign an MOU committing not to kill their dogs. Sometimes the BAWA team has to return five times to a banjar to obtain the signatures it needs. With about 50,000 dogs in the Regency, this is a daunting project.

If a dog is acting suspicious, it should be collected for observation by BAWA. Trying to kill a dog without proper training and equipment is a good way to get bitten. Even burying an infected dog without protection is dangerous. A man in Mengwi who killed his dog recently died because some of the infected dog’s saliva entered his eye. Dogs suspected of rabies should be reported to BAWA at 0811389004 and they will collect and quarantine the animal. Currently there are no other rabies quarantine facilities on the island. If a dog is still alive 10 days after it shows suspected symptoms, then it is considered rabies-free. A rabid dog (or human) will die 5 – 10 days after the first symptoms appear.

Vaccinating your dogs and keeping them off the street is the safest option these days. Since an early March directive from the Bali government ordering 10,000 dogs a month to be culled, pets have become a soft target.

Chaining dogs also creates difficulties. A dog chained in a compound can’t protect its territory, and can’t even defend itself if a rabid dog attacks it. . .

If bitten, BAWA recommends,  “Cleaning the wound immediately — right then and there, not waiting until you get home or to a clinic — is very important in preventing the virus from entering the body and reaching the central nervous system. Wash the wound for at least 10 full minutes with running water and detergent. (Detergent breaks down the wall of the virus.) Then apply iodine or alcohol to the wound and get the patient to Sanglah Hospital quickly. The contact person for the Rabies Team there is Dr. Ken Wirasandhi at 081 2395 8111. Pray that they have VARS rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin when you need it. Dog bites should not be stitched.”



Bali Animal Welfare Association

BAWA reports, “Rabies Control Now

Since 2011 the government has officially managed Bali’s rabies control and eradication program. BAWA continues to sterilize dogs as a population control measure and to immunize animals against diseases including rabies.

BAWA runs a 24/7 emergency hotline and education programs to raise awareness.

Unfortunately poisoning continues. BAWA lobbies for sterilization and vaccination to combat rabies. We advocate strengthened animal welfare laws to make inhumane killing and other cruelty illegal; we also argue for better law enforcement.


What it doesn’t say on its website is that the Indonesian government has shut down BAWA’s animal shelter.

What’s the international official word on rabies in Bali?

According to the U.S. Government travel advisory: “Rabies is endemic in Indonesia, but extensive dog vaccination has reduced cases in Bali by almost 80 percent. Other islands in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and Sumatra still pose risks for rabies. Rabies is a highly fatal disease and availability of treatment is very limited. If bitten, immediately seek treatment at an international clinic. The CDC recommends rabies vaccination if you will spend time in rural areas while in Indonesia.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) says, “In recent years, a number of rabies control and elimination pilot programmes carried out in Africa, Asia and Latin America have achieved a sustained reduction in human rabies cases through mass vaccination of dogs. In a number of urban areas, particularly in India, vaccination coupled with sterilization of dogs has resulted in local elimination of rabies in both humans and animals. . .


The most complete official information I found was at the BARC, Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre, website:


“Rabies is prevalent in Bali.  . .


As of April 13, 2013, more than 130 people have died from rabies in Bali since the outbreak began. Human and animal rabies cases have been confirmed near popular tourist destinations throughout the island. Efforts, including vaccinating dogs for rabies, have been made to control the outbreak. These efforts appear to be helping to manage the outbreak on the island.(Source: The Global Alliance for Rabies Control).


Rabies is a rapidly progressing virus that causes death. It is almost always spread by an animal bite but can also be spread when a rabid animal’s saliva gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin. The primary sources of human infection worldwide are dogs and certain wildlife species, such as foxes, raccoons, mongooses, and bats.

How can Travelers Protect themselves?

• Immunization is recommended before you arrive in Bali, however, if intend to be here longer than 3 weeks you can obtain the immunization here at a cost of approximately $45. If you would like to do this please contact us and we can recommend a clinic for you to visit. The pre-exposure rabies vaccination is a three-shot series (days 0, 7, and 21 or 28) given before travel contact with the animals.
• Even if you receive pre-exposure vaccination, you will still need immediate medical treatment if you are bitten or scratched by an animal.
Avoid animal bites.
• Avoid touching wild animals and pets. Pet dogs in Bali are not always vaccinated against rabies.
• Resist the urge to rescue animals with the intent to bring them home to your country. Dogs and cats may be infected with rabies but not show signs until several days or weeks after you first encounter them.
• Supervise children closely, especially around dogs, cats, and wildlife such as monkeys. This is important since children are more likely to be bitten by animals, may not report the bite, and may have more severe injuries from animal bites.
Act quickly if an animal bites or scratches you.
• Wash the wound well with soap and water.
• See a doctor right away, even if you don’t feel sick or your wound is not serious. To prevent rabies, you may need to start a series of vaccinations immediately.”


Independent, healthy Bali dog.  rr photo

In 2013, a rabid dog bit five people in Ubud.  In 2014, when I was last here, I saw (and jumped in front of a truck to avoid) a wild-eyed,  frothing-at-the-mouth rabid dog in Penestanan – just outside Ubud. 
At that time, I also saw lots of dogs with red strings around their necks indicating that they had been vaccinated.   Those strings are gone.  Now the owners of dogs get a booklet to verify the vaccination. 
In “RABIES 2015 – Where are we now?”  Kim Patra notes in her column, Paradise… In Sickness & In Health“News on rabies has hit the headlines again with the highest concentration of at-risk animals (dogs) reported to be in South Kuta and Renon.  Kuta alone is said to have a population of up to 55,000 dogs, many of which have not been vaccinated.It’s now almost 7 years since the first cases of rabies in Bali were documented and the Government’s target of being rabies free by 2012 has obviously not come to fruition. Massive vaccination and elimination of dogs has failed to eradicate the disease, and more programs have been planned for 2015 in an attempt to curb Rabies on the Island. There have been at least two human rabies deaths here in the past 6 months.
Now in 2016, I haven’t found  articles that I can read about rabies.  The dogs I’ve seen are healthy (except for the one old dog) and well treated.  The rescue organizations and perhaps the government are continuing immunizations. 

What’s the  on-the-street report about rabies that I’ve heard here in Bali in 2016?

A woman from Darwin, Australia, whom I met here in Ubud, has lived in Lombak,  an Indonesian island east of Bali and west of Sumbawa,  for 18 years.  She says that rabies is a big problem especially for the poor Balinese.  She has heard that one or two people die each week  because of rabies.  Part of the problem, she says,  is that the government won’t give the very expensive anti-rabies serum unless the dog is caught and has tested positive to rabies.  If the dog gets away, the bitten person will not be given the serum, and so by the time it’s obvious that rabies is the problem, it’s too late to do anything.


Adelle, the smart, friendly, healthy Bali Dog at Agus Ayu Cottages. rr photo

Remember that I’m not the best resource since I speak neither Indonesian nor Balinese, and  I’m a tourist, staying in a Balinese tourist town.  Keeping in mind that people everywhere like to complain about their government, (and this part is hear say) I’ve heard from various sources on the street that –

  • The Governor of Bali  just wants all the dogs killed as the easiest way to take care of all threats of rabies.  [But we know that would not stop rabies].
  • Government men come into villages and kill all the dogs even those that have been vaccinated.
  • The villagers who resist the government men have been educated to stand up for their vaccinated dogs.
  • There has been a eight-year killing spree of dogs.
  • About 30,000 of the unique Bali Heritage Dogs have been culled since 2009.
  • Rumor is that perhaps the government men get a bounty for each killed dog.
  • Although the Balinese do not eat dog, other groups do.  Some come into Bali and set up cheap restaurants selling meat from kidnapped and killed Bali dogs. 😦
  • Leather products here especially if they are made of strips of leather can be from the hides of dogs and cats. 😦
  • The symptoms for rabies and tetanus are very similar.  Therefore, there is confusion in diagnosing rabies and even cause of death may not be accurate and so data about rabies is not reliable.

When many, many dogs were culled in 2008 after an increase in rabies, the rat population exploded and destroyed many of the rice fields.   So the villagers know they need dogs, if for no other reason, to keep the rodent population down.


Bali Dog puppy – friendly and independent – on the street alone. rr photo

Because I’m in Ubud, a tourist town,  I’ve seen mainly well-cared-for dogs.  The saddest one is this one on Jalan Bisma.


Animal rescue people know this dog and have tried to help him. He is well loved by his family but is 17 years old, which is really old for a Bali dog, and the medicine they have for his skin makes him sicker 😦

Bali dogs, perhaps the oldest breed on Earth, are smart, hardy, short-haired, and independent, all wonderful traits in a humid, hot climate with owners who don’t have many material resources. The Bali dogs also have litters of about six puppies.

Now, however, on Bali it is popular for Western bred dogs to be imported.  One myth is that if your dog is Western, it won’t get rabies! Not true, of course.  Many of the imported dogs are high maintenance and expensive and have big litters.  😦


This very furry dog in Ubud looks high-maintenance to me. Look at the piece of paper stuck to her fur. Bali has a hot, humid climate – not the best place for a furry dog.


She’s cute, but she wouldn’t last long in the streets of Ubud.


Sim from the Netherlands petting a cute imported dog – not a Bali Dog.

At the “Plight of Bali Dogs” talk last weekend, (Oct. 9, 2016), Ebony from BARC (Bali Animal and Rehabilitation Centre shared many facts.  One is that it has been estimated that one un-sterilized dog over a seven year period could possibly have up to 67,000 offspring!  So sterilization is essential in keeping the dog population at a reasonable level. BARC sterilizes 20 dogs a week.


Ebony from BARC

BARC  has an animal sanctuary and an adoption center; it works to educate local people, provide vaccinations, and medical care for animals, especially dogs.  Started by an Australian woman, Linda, BARC relies on donations to continue its work.

Besides providing local families with dogs that have been vaccinated and sterilized, BARC does followup home visits and provides medical care for its adopted animals. Ebony also praised Elisabeth’s good work with cats at Villa Kitty.


Kitty Villa – kitten waiting for adoption

A local Balinese man, Made, tells us that BARC comes in to his village each month to vaccinate any new dogs and check on the health of the animals.


A BARC puppy waiting for a good home.

My non-expert conclusion about rabies in Bali in 2016:
From the many healthy dogs I’ve seen and the fact that the news I can read in Bali now is not mentioning rabies and that the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory (that usually gives the most conservative recommendations) says rabies is mainly contained, and that the great animal rescue organizations here continue to do good work of vaccinating dogs and educating people, I think the rabies situation is better; rabies is not gone – but at least here on Bali in the tourist areas, there is less rabies than before.

But, if you are in Bali, the best way to prevent getting rabies is to

  1. Get a vaccination
  2. Check that  the dog where you are staying and the neighbors’ dogs  are vaccinated
  3. If you are bitten, follow WHO recommendations.  Wound cleansing and immunizations, done as soon as possible after suspect contact with an animal and following WHO recommendations, can prevent the onset of rabies in virtually 100% of exposures.
  4. Stay at a place with a Bali Dog to ward off any dog that might have rabies. 🙂

Also, BARC recommends, “Before your trip, find out if your health insurance covers health care overseas and medical evacuation.”

When you come to Bali, consider bringing in items (towels, medicines . . . ) that can help the rescue organizations. BARC’s  Ebony has been able to bring in expired, but still good, animal medicine that’s much needed – donated by Australian veterinarians.  See if vets in your country will do the same.  But a word of caution.  Indonesia has draconian laws about drug dealers, so  contact the rescue organizations for specifics so you don’t get in trouble by doing a good deed.

BARC -Bali Animal Rehabilitation Centre –

BAWA – Bali Animal Welfare Association –

Villa Kitty –

Be aware, be safe – and help Bali organizations that are working to help animals  – and to stop rabies.

Salam, Renée

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