By Michelle Sherrow
Two dolphins who were formerly held captive for four years as part of a swim-with-dolphins program will finally be released back into their native habitat later this spring.
Captured and imprisoned in a tiny tank in Hisaronu, Turkey, bottlenose dolphins Tom and Misha were denied everything natural to them and forced to perform for a constant barrage of tourists. Their future seemed bleak until the Born Free Foundation, a British organization that campaigns in behalf of animals in zoos and aquariums, embarked on a mission to win their freedom. With the help of PETA Germany, which posted an action alert on its website, wrote to Hisaronu's mayor, and coordinated actions with Turkish animal rights groups, Born Free got Tom and Misha released to a marine reserve in the Mediterranean Sea and began preparing them for life in the ocean.
Because of the stress of intensive confinement, the dolphins were weak, underweight, and lethargic when they arrived at the reserve. But after two years of nurturing, they are healthier and stronger and, most importantly, are starting to catch fish on their own, a sign that they are nearly ready to be released on schedule in late spring. Once again, they will be able to swim for up to 100 miles a day and use their sonar to explore the ocean.
If you love dolphins, please don't pay for them to be imprisoned and tormented in swim-with-dolphins exhibitions. By contrast, programs like the one at the Florida Keys' John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park allow you to interact with dolphins in their home—on their terms.