New report confirms captive dolphins can be successfully returned to the wild
Today, the Born Free Foundation has launched a ground-breaking scientific report, Back to the Blue, detailing the successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of two captive dolphins, Tom and Misha.
This pioneering report charts the rehabilitation of Tom and Misha, who were rescued from a toxic swimming pool in Turkey in June 2010. The campaign to help these dolphins was spearheaded by the Born Free Foundation. Following an intensive two-year period of rehabilitation the pair were released into the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey on 9 May 2012.
“The successful rehabilitation and release of Tom and Misha back to the wild not only gave them their freedom back, it also ignited a beacon of hope for other captive cetaceans,” said Born Free Foundation President Will Travers OBE.
Back to the Blue aims to highlight the plight of captive dolphins and provide the tools to assist in the future the rehabilitation and release of other captive cetacean.
The report details how the progress of Tom and Misha was recorded against a number of key goals to ensure their responsible reintroduction back into the wild. These goals included ensuring they were in peak physical condition, and retraining them to live as wild dolphins again – including hunting, catching and eating live fish, and spending more time underwater.
Born Free’s Back to the Blue project, with its detailed post-release monitoring phase, proved what is possible. Tom and Misha were rescued from their tiny concrete tank where they had been languishing in filthy water and going downhill fast. Over a period of 20 months of rehabilitation they were transformed into the sleek, efficient marine mammals that nature intended.
Their journey was not without considerable challenges – however the rehabilitation team, led by marine mammal expert Jeff Foster, worked with Tom and Misha every day, adjusting and developing the process in recognition of their individual characters and skills. Though a considerable undertaking for these two dolphins, the effort was more than justified as it highlights a practical way forward and offers a realistic alternative for dolphins currently condemned for life in concrete tanks.
Jeff Foster said: “In captivity we train the animals not to think on their own, to shut down their brains and do what we ask them to do. What we are trying to do when we release them into the wild is get them off autopilot and thinking again. If they can make it alive through a six-month period, then we know they have been successfully reintroduced. Within six hours of release they were eating wild fish and swimming with another dolphin. It was fabulous.”
Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free Foundation, added: “The rescue of Tom and Misha has made history. We now have the hard evidence that it is possible for these animals to be successfully and humanely returned to the wild. That is a dangerous concept for a multimillion dollar captive industry that profits from their very confinement, posing new ethical and moral challenges for the future of an outdated industry.”
Following their successful release into the Aegean, Tom rounded the Turkish coast at Bodrum and continued north towards Izmir, while Misha headed east along the southern Turkish coast. They were tracked via satellite until 14 October 2012 and 29 November 2012 respectively. Tom was subsequently spotted in summer 2014. Their extraordinary journey is documented in a remarkable video available to view on YouTube today, and coincides with the release of this pioneering report.