By Ric O’Barry
I’ve released a number of captive dolphins back into the wild. One of the biggest lies being told by the likes of SeaWorld and others in the dolphin abusement industry is that dolphins in captivity can never be released back into the wild.
Jedol and Sampal, however, beg to differ. Both were being kept in captivity in aquariums in Seoul, South Korea, and Jeju Island. Thanks to the efforts of the Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, and the outstanding nonprofit Korean Animal Welfare Association, three bottlenose dolphins – Jedol, Sampal and Chunsan – were removed from their captive tanks and placed in a sea pen in May 2013 to be acclimated to the ocean and to be fed live fish, which they would have to catch. I provided the protocol and helped with consulting in the release, but the KAWA group and other Koreans did most of the work. And their work paid off.
Sampal actually decided the sea pen was too confining and fled through a hole in the net early in June. Jedol and Chunsan were released after a few months in July 2013.
So, can captive dolphins survive in the wild, if properly released and evaluated? You bet they can.
Here are several photos taken by Dr. Kim off the island Jeju, showing both Jedol and Sample on April 15th – just two days ago. You can tell them from the freeze brand on their dorsal fin. It is imperative to freeze-brand the dolphins so that they can be identified after the satellite tag falls off.
I am very excited about these photos. It’s a big deal. It is absolute proof of our success in the rehab and release of Jedol and Sampal. They are making it in the wild ocean again. The protocol works!
My thanks to the Koreans and especially to KAWA for keeping me informed. There are other dolphins in Korea and in other countries that should be returned to the ocean. It is the least we can do for them, having stolen them in the first place.