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Born Free USA Global Field Projects

Dolphins in Turkey (COMPLETED)

Published 09/07/10

Following a dramatic negotiation, the Born Free Foundation® secured the release of two dolphins, Tom and Misha. Their plight made international news when they were placed in a small concrete swimming pool in the Turkish town of Hisaronu for the purpose of tourist swim-with experiences. Here, local campaign group, the Dolphin Angels, arranged a massive Facebook protest and an ongoing street presence, calling for their release. The aim was to rehabilitate the two dolphins and release them back into the ocean.

Background: During the spring and summer of 2010, Born Free Foundation’s Travellers’ Animal Alert! campaign received complaints from concerned tourists regarding two bottlenose dolphins held in a swimming pool style structure in Hisaronu, southeast Turkey. At the same time, a Turkey-based campaign group, the Dolphin Angels, were mounting an effective local campaign against the facility and a Facebook campaign was attracting growing support.

A team from Born Free visited the site to investigate. The findings included a hastily constructed, extremely small and poorly filtered pool, in which two large dolphins swam in their own waste.

In September 2010, after the owner had fled and considerable negotiations with the facilities’ creditors had taken place, an agreement was reached to transfer ownership of the dolphins to Born Free. Born Free, in collaboration with Underwater Research Society (SAD) and Dolphin Angels, then undertook the emergency rescue of Tom and Misha and relocated them to a temporary sea pen in southern Turkey.

The dolphins were subsequently moved to a specially designed large, deep-rehabilitation sea pen constructed by Born Free. It is here that Tom and Misha underwent rehabilitation before successfully being released back to the wild in 2012.

While the focus of this project was the rehabilitation of Tom and Misha, it is also hoped that the project protocols will provide a workable, realistic and cost-effective process that can be internationally replicated in the future. "Back to the Blue" also aimed to highlight the plight of captive dolphins and the repercussions of the increasing demand for ‘swim-with’ opportunities.

Read updates about our Hisaronu dolphin project.

See the Hisaronu dolphin project's photo gallery.

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