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Dolphins Held Captive for Decades Successfully Released

| Eva Marrero
Topics: Captivity Industry, Dolphins, Keiko, Rehabilitation, Release, Sanctuaries

This is the third installment in our series spotlighting successful cetacean retirement, rehabilitation and release stories. Companies like SeaWorld claim that releasing orcas and dolphins to sanctuaries for retirement is dangerous, "irresponsible" and even impossible.  However, these stories reveal the truth: that it is possible, and in the best interests of the cetaceans, to retire them permanently and even release them back into their wild ocean homes when possible. 

Read the rest of the stories here. 


The initiative to free bottlenose dolphins Rocky, Missie and Silver was called “Into the Blue” and took place on Turks and Caicos. Backed by the Born Free Foundation, the Bellerive Foundation, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the project took the three captives who were no longer being forced to perform in captivity, and prepared them for reintroductions to the ocean. Rocky, who was caught in the Florida Panhandle in 1971 and held at Marineland in Morecambe, England, lived in captivity for twenty years; Missie, from Biloxi, Texas, had lived in captivity for twenty-two years; and Silver, believed to have been from Taiwan, was captive fifteen years.

The dolphins were moved to a conch farm lagoon on one of the islands of Caicos in 1991 where they began their rehabilitation process. They learned how to eat live fish and acquired other skills they would need to survive in the wild. Motivated by their marked progress, the research team moved them just months later to a floating sea pen. Finally, on Tuesday, September 10, 1991, the dolphins were freeze-branded and released into the wild.

All three dolphins were re-sighted on a number of occasions since then, by fishermen and tourists alike. There was even a strong bonded friendship observed between Silver and one a wild, sociable dolphin who was well-known to the community and affectionately named “JoJo”.

While the fate of these dolphins remains unknown, the fact that they did not wash ashore, nor did they beg fishermen and other humans for food, appears to indicate that they were making their own way in the ocean. Although the dolphins may not have been sighted again by the project team members, this does not necessarily mean that the dolphins perished, as the ocean is a large and difficult area to account for. 

Ultimately, these three dolphins were given the opportunity to swim free in the oceans again - something that all captives deserve a chance at.


Header image by Jim the Photographer / Flickr (photo is not of Rocky, Missie or Silver). 

Social image: Peter Bloom, BSc.