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. – Ric O’Barry
Ric O’Barry is a pioneer in the field of readapting captive dolphins for release. An overview of past release projects is found below:
- 1973 USA Opo
- 1974 Bahamas Liberty and Florida – two bottlenose dolphins released off Eleuthera in the Bahamas after two years of captivity. Prior to release, the dolphins were readapted to feeding on live fish, freeze branded, and airlifted to the Bahamas for release. One of these may now (1994) be the dolphin known as JoJo off Turks and Caicos. (McKenna, 1992). Non-native reintroduction. Two dolphins; Captive 2 years; no followup.
- 1987 USA Joe and Rosie – two bottlenose dolphins released off Wassaw Island, Georgia, after seven years of captivity. “All reports of their activity in the wild indicate that they are in good health and have associations with resident pods.” Released July 13, 1987. These dolphins were captured off Mississippi and released off Georgia. Not returned to native habitat. Two dolphins; Captive 7 years; followup successful.
- 1991 Guatemala Ariel and Turbo – They were scooped from the clear waters of the Caribbean, put to work in a traveling dolphin show in Guatemala and abandoned in May 2001.
- 1993 Brazil Flipper – a male bottlenose dolphin released off Laguna, Brazil after approximately ten years of captivity (Rollo, 1993). Since release, Flipper has been seen along at least 155 miles of coastline, often in the company of other dolphins. His most recent sighting was in early 1995. Returned to native habitat. One dolphin; Captive 10 years; followup successful.
- 1995 USA Buck and Luther – two US Navy dolphins released back into the wild, after two years of preparation and rehabilitation training. The Navy recaptured them a few days later, calling it a “rescue”. The Navy was able to use the Navy recall pinger to lure them back into a sea pen.
- 1995 Haiti 6 Untrained dolphins – They were there because in the last days of the Jean-Bertrand Aristide government, a shady Haitian-Spanish consortium finagled a permit to capture ten dolphins for “tourist and educational” purposes. They captured eight, two died leaving six survivors.
- 1996 Colombia Stephania – rescued from a dolphin abusement park in San Andres, Colombia took six months, and we never could free Stephania. Eventually storms blew the pen down and she was still there. She wanted room service! She had been through so much, living in isolation, small substandard tanks on the mainland in Colombia. Nobody ever questions their mental health, but I have to look at their mental health, not just their physical health
- 2011 Indonesia – Built the largest permanent dolphin readaptation center in the world – Camp Lumba Lumba. We are still waiting on the Indonesian government to enforce the agreement to readapt illegally captured dolphins.
- 2014 South Korea Jedol, Sampal and Chunsan – Three illegally caught dolphins were being kept in captivity in aquariums in Seoul, South Korea, and Jeju Island. 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.
- 2017 Karimunjawa, Indonesia Munjawa – Three illegally-caught dolphins were being held at Menjangan Shark Pool in Karimunjawa, Indonesia. The mammals, who were in very poor health, were destined for Indonesia’s notorious traveling circuses. After one died, two dolphins were moved to Camp Lumba Lumba, Dolphin Project’s permanent dolphin rehabilitation center. The single survivor, Munjawa, was successfully released back into her home range.