Dolphin Escapes Captivity To Reunite With Ocean Pod

In 2009, along the waters off Jeju Island in South Korea, a ten-year-old female dolphin was mistakenly captured in a fishing net. But instead being released back into the wild as law requires, she was sold to a local aquarium and given the name Sampal, bound to a life a world apart from the one she had known.

Over the next four years, the wild dolphin was housed in a small pool, forced perform tricks as part of a dolphin show — treatment many believe is inhumane.

Yet as word spread of Sampal’s plight and the injustice of her captivity, folks across the country began to call for the dolphin to be set loose back into the wild. Animal rights advocates, biologists, and even Seoul Mayor Park Won-soonadded their voices to the once-wild dolphin’s cause, spurring the Korean High Court to finally deliver orders that Sampal be returned to the open ocean.

But before her keepers had the chance to set her free as was planned for later this summer, Sampal managed to find her own way home.

While undergoing rehabilitation in a netted sea pen to ready her once again for life in the wild, Sampal apparently decided she’d waited long enough. Months before her planned release, the dolphin somehow managed to swim through a narrow tear in the pen’s netting to freedom in the vast ocean beyond — ending her four year ordeal in captivity.

SteveD./CC BY 2.0

Sampal’s handlers were initially concerned that the dolphin might not have fully reacquired the skills she would need to survive in the wild, but their worries were soon quelled. According to Korean media, researchers from Cetacean Research Center were able to track Sampal 60 miles from where she had been held, swimming free among 50 other dolphins believed to be members of her original pod.

Although research into dolphin behavior continues to suggest that these aquatic mammals possess a mental capacity not so far outmatched by our own, it doesn’t take an advanced degree to recognize a more fundamental, and perhaps more important commonality — a simple desire to be free.


Study: Do Dolphins Name Each Other?

Impala Jumps Into Tourist’s Car to Escape Cheetahs

The Whale That Changed the World’s View of Marine Mammals

By Stephen Messenger

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Patti Ruocco
Patti Ruocco10 months ago

Absolutely awesome!! It is statement about the minds and souls of animals...and our connectedness with them!!

PrimaSICK B.
PrimaAWAY B.2 years ago

Horrible to absolutely wonderful story!!!!!
She deserves everything .I hope life treats her well now. That was a long time to wait. Excellent news.

Elisa F.
Elisa F.2 years ago

May she be, forever free. Thanks for sharing.

Manel Dias
Manel Dias2 years ago

I am glad that the Korean people stood for demanding the captive dolphins release with compassion. Also it is very encouraging to learn that Korea it is illegal to keep dolphins in captivilty. Thanks for all those good decisions that you all have made on behalf of animals.

Anne F.
Anne F.2 years ago

Excellent family reunion story for this week of Thanksgiving.

Loretta P.
Loretta P.2 years ago

Great ending. Animals of ALL types were not put on earth for human entertainment.

Kay Martin
Kay M.2 years ago

Thank you Kara for a lovely article, and thanks to the over 80 comments from the care 2 members, very awesome. Keep up the good work,

Terri B.
Terri B.2 years ago

stupid, ignorant, greedy HEARTLESS people. score one for the animals.

Carrie-Anne Brown

good news, thanks for sharing :)

Sarah clevenger
Sarah clevenger2 years ago

Beautiful. everyone deserves a happy ending! no animal should be held in captivity (unless its a rehabiltation center) .