Jedori, an illegally captured dolphin, left Seoul Zoo on May 11 for return to the seas off the south coast of Jeju. In one of the most high profile cases in Korean animal rights history, activists paid for the animal’s transportation and the dolphin is being kept in a 30-meter cage three minutes from Seongsan Port.
The decision to return Jedol was made in March of last year after the owners of Pacific Land, an animal show in Jungmun, Jeju, were ruled to have illegally purchased 11 Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins.
Jedol was sold to Seoul Grand Park and Zoo in 2009 in return for two Stellar sea lions and campaigners demanded the dolphin’s release after the Pacific Land owners were found guilty and the animals’ release ordered.
Jedol departed from Incheon Airport in a special vibration-free aircraft and was transferred to Seongsan Port in southeast Jeju. The animal joined two other dolphins for adaptation training for return to the open sea next month. The dolphins will have be tagged and tracked by satellite.
This is the first Asian case of a dolphin being returned to the wild after capture, although it has occurred in other regions. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said back in March 2012, “It is not only a matter of one dolphin going home, but a matter of the relationship between animals and humans, between nature and humans.”
The Pacific Land facilities were condemned as ‘outdated’ and ‘abysmal’. Photo courtesy Lee Hyung-ju, Animal Freedom Association
International sea mammal expert and director of the Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, Ric O’Barry said “The release of Jedol is an unprecedented case,” sending a strong message to the world.
The decision to release the dolphins was influenced by Hot Pink Dolphins CEO Hwang Hyeon-jin and an alliance of animal rights and environmental campaigners, all of whom welcomed this latest development. They said that the precedent should spread nationwide.
According to the Ehwa Biological Behaviour Research Team, Jedol’s behaviour patterns are similar to that expected of wild animals and the dolphin is responding positively to the relocation. The dolphins’ feeding activity was observed, as they not only fed on seaweed and kelp, but also enthusiastically hunted fish and behaved like dolphins in the wild.
After the 15-day adaptive training, the animals will be moved to another enclosure in northern Jeju for the final adaptive training. The dolphin is expected to be freed at the end of June.
Choi Jae-cheon, chairman of the public release committee, who almost cried as Jedol returned to the Jeju sea, said: “the release of Jedol shows the will to not just protect humans, but other animals too.” He added, “This means our country is [joining] the advanced nations.”
Jedol was communicating with fans through the the “Jedol” Facebook page, saying the morning before his release: “Tomorrow...I will...go to Jeju. Tomorrow afternoon my body will be in the Jeju sea of my hometown~ I am really thankful for my many supporters!”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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