When dolphins get caught accidently in fishing nets, the outcome is usually dire - They either get injured and lose a limb or, spend their lives in captivity entertaining humans. But while thirteen-year-old Sampal's story began that way, it has a perfect fairy-tale ending.
Sampal's saga began in 2009, when the then ten-year old marine mammal was accidently caught by fishermen in the waters off South Korea. However, instead of letting her go as the law requires them to, the men decided to profit from their catch and sell her to Pacific Land aquarium on South Korea's Jeju Island . Here, she was named Sampal and placed in a small pool where she spent her days performing tricks for visitors.
But Sampal was not destined to spend her life in captivity. Appalled by the conditions she was living in, South Korean animal advocates began to rally to get her released. Soon the entire nation, including Seoul's mayor Park Won-soon joined in. In 2012, the country's highest court issued a release order for not just Sampal, but also, fellow dolphin Chunsam, as well as another one named Jedol that resided at the Korean Zoo.
At the end of May, the dolphins were handed to the Korean Animal Welfare Association who in conjunction with experts from The Dolphin Project began rehabilitating the dolphins, a two month process that involves placing them inside a sea pen in the open waters. While Chunsam and Jedol were content getting acclimatized to life in the ocean, Sampal was too impatient to wait that long - So on June 22nd, the clever little dolphin found a tiny tear in the net and decided to take off.
For those of you wondering if Sampal may have been a little hasty in her departure, here is some even better news. Researchers from South Korea's Cetacean Research Center recently tracked her down 60 miles from where she had escaped, swimming happily with 50 other dolphins that they believe are members of the pod she was originally swimming with, before she got plucked by the fishermen, four years ago.
As for the others? Chunsam who took its time leaving the sea pen when it was cut open on July 18th, is reportedly hanging out with a mother and calf from its original pod, while Jedol still seems to be looking for the right group to join - Probably the wild dolphins that came to visit whilst it was rehabilitating. The best news is that all seem to have forgotten their captivity trauma and appear to be frolicking happily!
Resources: treehugger.com,msn.com,huffingtonpost.com, dolphinproject.org.