The last Jeju Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin named Bibong, which is the only one left in South Korea’s aquariums, will be released into the ocean. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is listed as an endangered species and there are about 120 on the coast of Jeju Island.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announced on Wednesday that procedures to release Bibong to the ocean, such as training to get adjusted to the wild environment, will begin. Bibong was illegally captured off the shore of Biyang Island in April 2005 and used for dolphin shows at Pacific Resom in Jeju Island. As Pacific Resom closed in January this year, active discussions about releasing Bibong took place.
According to the ministry, Bibong did well in the adjustment training, catching alive prey in a water tank. The ministry will move Bibong to an inclosing net near Daejeong,, Seogwipo from Jeju Pacific Resom to have him interact with wild dolphins before releasing him possible this year. His behavioral characteristics and health will be tracked and monitored for a year after release to judge how well he adjusts to the wild.
The ministry will carry out Bibong’s release quietly without any public event according to experts’ recommendations that Bibong will have a better chance of adjusting to the wild when external factors, such as contact with humans, noise, and light, are blocked. His training will be recorded and released. “The cost of release will be borne by Pacific Resom,” said a member of the ministry. “The cost of tracking him after release will be paid by the government.”
With Bibong’s release, the journey of releasing Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins to the ocean, which began with three dolphins named Jedol, Chunsam, and Sampal that were illegally captured in 2009 and returned to the ocean in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court in 2013, will be completed in nine years. Bibong could not return to the ocean as he was not included in the trial by the prosecution on the basis that he was caught a too long time ago.