Dolphin escapes, rejoins pod after 4 years of captivity

In a heartwarming tale, illegally caught dolphins are now free to join their pods. Sampal made a bread for it, escaping before her planned release.

She was caught in a fishing net by mistake, but Sampal the dolphin was not freed back in the waters. After spending the first 10 years of her life free with her pod, Sampal was taken to a South Korean dolphinarium, the Pacific Land on Jeju Island. She was confined in a small underground pool and kept hungry so she’d perform for food.

Sampal the dolphin

Sampal the dolphin

Sampal’s luck turned thanks to the efforts of individuals and organizations who took the dolphinarium to court. In a landmark decision, the South Korean supreme court ordered Pacific Land to free four of its dolphins.

    “These dolphins are being kept in abysmal conditions, with barely enough room to dive in their cramped tank. They are good candidates for release and so they should be returned to the ocean.” says Ric O’Barry, director of Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project. O’Barry had been invited by the Korean Animal Welfare Association to assess the condition of the dolphins and make recommendations for their rehabilitation and release back into the ocean.

The dolphins slated for release were moved to larger pens in the sea.

Dolphin transported out of the South Korean "Pacific Land" dolphinarium

Dolphin transported out of the South Korean “Pacific Land” dolphinarium

It’s there that Sampal found a weak spot and made a run for freedom, weeks before her planned release. But all was well, she was spotted by members of the Institute for Cetacean Research swimming with her former pod.

Two other dolphins, Jedol and Chunsam, were released on July 18, 2013, and Sampal’s story gives everyone hope that these two will readjust to freedom. “Prof. Kim Byeong-yeup at Jeju National University, in charge of the reintroduction project, said that Jedol’s rapid regaining of survival instincts helped its release proceed smoothly,” reports the Korea Times. Dr. Naomi Rose, a member of International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, points out the “unprecedented case derived from a social consensus” leading to the release and setting Korea on a path to set an example in marine conservation efforts.

Laura Bridgeman, an environmentalist for Earth Island, reminds us about how much we’ve learned about dolphins:

    Scientific discoveries over the last five decades clearly demonstrate that dolphins and whales share many traits that were once believed as belonging exclusively to humans. Their brains are among the largest in the animal kingdom, allowing for higher-order thinking such as abstract thought and logical reasoning as well as for highly developed emotional centers. In addition, there are numerous accounts of dolphins demonstrating altruistic and compassionate behaviors, such as rescuing imperiled humans and animals and aiding injured members of their own. There’s also documented evidence of dolphins exhibiting what appears to be grieving behaviors.

Notes:
South Korea Theme Park Forced to Return Dolphins Back to the Sea
Laura Bridgeman, April 12,2013, earthisland.org

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