In the waters that surround Istanbul, Turkey a wrong is about to be righted as two dolphins are returned to the wild after being rescued from years of filthy captivity.
“What we are trying to do is right a wrong. We’re trying to bring them back and give them an opportunity to be wild again,” said Jeff Foster, a marine mammal expert.
Tom and Misha, two male bottlenose dolphins, first attracted the attention of animal rights activists two years ago when they were being kept at a Turkish resort where tourists paid to swim with the dolphins in a shallow, filthy swimming pool.
“Fecal material was building up on the bottom, and the water was turning green like a stagnant swimming pool. So they were living in their own feces,” said Foster.
Activists successfully campaigned to rescue the dolphins and eventually brought them to a sea pen off the Turkish coast.
For more than a year, the two have been in the care of a team from the wildlife conservation group Born Free, led by Foster.
They were really thin and not nearly as strong. You can see how muscular they’re becoming,”said Foster.
Born Free’s plan to re-introduce Tom and Misha into the wild is ambitious, controversial and risky.
“It’s like taking your dog basically, for years you’ve trained these animals to interact with people and depend on people. And then we have to retrain them to be wild,” said Foster.
One of the biggest challenges has been teaching the dolphins how to hunt for their own food.
“We had literally thousands of fish in the pen and they just wouldn’t look at them. Because they had just been so used to being hand fed in a captive situation that they did not recognize fish as a food source,” said Foster.
But now, Tom and Misha somersault and flip like pros in pursuit of their prey.
They’ll be fitted with satellite trackers, so that Foster can monitor them after their release.
Scientists said if Tom and Misha join a family of wild dolphins living off the coast of Istanbul it’ll be a huge success. But their biggest danger in the wild will come from human beings, from their fishing nets, from their motor boat engine and propellers and from pollutants that come out of cities like this.