After 20 Years in Captivity, Two Dolphins Will Be Returned to the Ocean

Two captive dolphins in South Korea will soon be returning to their rightful home in the ocean.

According to the Dolphin Project, the two are both male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins named Geumdeung and Daepo who were caught near Jeju Island in 1997 and 1998.

The two, who are now in believed to be in their mid-twenties, were used at various dolphin shows before being sent to Seoul Grand Park in 1999 and 2002, but soon they will be going home.

The official announcement was just made by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation.

“Thanks to the efforts of Seoul’s Mayor, Park Won-soon, these dolphins will soon be swimming wild and free. In a previous meeting in his chambers, he told me “The Cove” movie greatly influenced his decision to set captive dolphins free,” said Ric O’Barry, Founder and Director of the Dolphin Project.

The move isn’t unprecedented in South Korea. In 2013, the Korean High Court ordered five dolphins, including Sampal, Jedol and Chunsan, to be released from captivity. That spring the three were moved to a sea pen where a team began preparing them for a release that was scheduled for later that summer.

Sampal didn’t stick to the schedule and made a break for it when a hole tore open in the net containing them. Her caretakers worried about whether she would survive, but she was later spotted among a pod of dolphins who were believed to be the family she was torn from.

Last year, a team of researchers confirmed even more good news after both Sampal and Chunsan were each spotted with calves of their own. Hopefully Geumdeung and Daepo’s return to the wild will be just as successful.

While the captivity industry continues to cling to its claims that releasing captive cetaceans back into the wild, or at the very least into sea pens, is dangerous and will bring certain death, the successful releases of dolphins and other cetaceans offer both evidence and hope that captive whales and dolphins can be returned home, and that they can thrive if given the chance.

Hopefully more facilities will be inspired to phase out their exhibits and follow leads like this, returning captive cetaceans who are good candidates for release back into the wild where they belong.

For more on how to help support efforts to end cetacean captivity and stop more live captures, check out organizations including the Dolphin Project, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Sea Shepherd and the Whale Sanctuary Project.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

104 comments

Angela K
Angela K15 days ago

Petition signed

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O22 days ago

Wow, how my heart is rejoicing here! This is such fantastic news and I to read that the others have returned to even breed naturally, and rejoin their family pod is just wonderful. Thank you to all concerned.

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Jennifer H
Jennifer H27 days ago

It seems some didn't really read the article. They already have proof that the releases work by the first "escapee" is with a pod and has a baby. Release is possible and instincts are strong.

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner27 days ago

The Japs must be infuriated. Let me buy a plane ticket over to spit in some Japanese faces. Now South Korea you're not out of the woods for criminal guilt, do like Taiwan did and make dog torture and slaughter a crime for both sellers and buyers.

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Pat P
Pat P27 days ago

Everyone but the money-making marine animal corporations would like to see this venture succeed! There is a lot involved, and much unexpected that can occur.

I only hope that nothing is done without great forethought, and that if it does not go as planned, that the marine biology world will learn, try again with improvements.

THESE ANIMALS DO NOT BELONG IN CAPTIVITY! WE SHOULD CONTINUE TO IMPROVE OUR EFFORTS TO RETURN THEM HOME TO THEIR OCEANS, AND NEVER STEAL THEM FROM THEIR FAMILY PODS, CAUSING IMMENSE SUFFERING, ILLNESSES AND DEATHS FROM UNNATURAL CAUSES!

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Fran away F
Fran away Fabout a month ago

Good! I wish them all the best in the wild world!

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natasha s
natasha salgadoabout a month ago

Cried tears of joy when i heard this--so happy. Every animal in aquariums must be freed+released to their homes just like these 2.

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Carl R
Carl Rabout a month ago

Thanks!!!

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Carl R
Carl Rabout a month ago

Thanks!!!

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Donna T
Donna Tabout a month ago

thank you

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