The more we learn about dolphins, the more apparent it becomes that these animals are very similar to humans. Dolphins live in complex social groups and share deep emotional bonds with their friends and families. They are capable of recognizing themselves in a mirror, something only a few animals are capable of, and have been known to mimic human speech and learn very quickly.
Sadly, despite all of the amazing qualities that dolphins have, humans continue to force them into captivity and exploit them for our paltry entertainment. We have witnessed first hand how captivity negatively impacts dolphins. From the tragic story of the captive dolphin that committed suicide on the set of “Flipper,” to recent videos of captive dolphins floating listlessly on the surface of their tanks, it doesn’t take much to recognize that life in a tank is not suited for these wild creatures.
The good news is attitudes towards captivity are starting to change, however, the prevalence of the argument that you cannot successfully reintroduce dolphins back to the wild remains. While facilities like SeaWorld and other marine parks would have the public believe that it is impossible to rehabilitate wild-caught dolphins and teach them how to survive in the ocean again, this has been proven to be absolutely false.
Just take the example of Chunsam the dolphin for example. Chunsam, along with two other dolphins, was illegally captured from the wild and sent to live in a South Korean marine park for three years. After a court order was released to free the dolphins from captivity, the Korean Animal Welfare Association, with the help of Ric O’Barry, stepped in to help train these three to be wild again.
A few years later and we are happy to announce that Chunsam has been spotted with a baby by the Dolphin Research Group of Jeju University/Ewha Womans University! This sweet little one will have the pleasure of growing up in the wild and will never known the horrible life in captivity that her mother did for three years.
Marine mammal experts agree that successful breeding is a great sign that Chunsam is thriving in the wild and has completely assimilated back to her wild home. Chunsam is the second of the three released dolphins to give birth in the wild, a testament to the resilience of these formerly captive animals.
While it is true that not all captive marine animals are good candidates for release, given the current social climate and our growing knowledge about the impact of captivity, there is no reason that eligible animals shouldn’t be given a second chance at life.
You can help other captive dolphins by sharing this post to help debunk myths about life after tanks – and of course, boycott marine parks and other facilities that hold animals captive for profit. Together we can create a better world for wildlife, but it starts with each and every one of us.
Image source: SOOJIN JANG AND MI YEON KIM