The Indonesian government supported the dolphins’ rescue, working with Dolphin Project, founded by Lincoln’s father Ric O’Barry, who was also at the release.
Ric O’Barry had been the dolphin trainer for the 1960s TV show “Flipper,” but later came to see the toll exacted on the animals. He has since devoted his life to returning dolphins to the wild.
Center workers clapped as the dolphins swam out. Wahyu Lestari, the rehabilitation coordinator at the center, said she was a bit sad to see them go.
“I’m happy they are free, and they are going back to their family,” she said. “They should be in the wild because they are born in the wild.”
The freed dolphins will be monitored out at sea with GPS tracking for a year. They can return for visits to the sanctuary, although it’s unclear what they will do. They may join another pod, stay together, or go their separate ways.
Also read: Save Ecosystems for Future Generations: Indonesian Expert
Dolphins in captivity are carted from town to town, kept in chlorinated water, held in isolation, or forced to interact with tourists, often leading to injuries.
Johnny, the oldest dolphin, had teeth that were worn down to below the gum line when he was rescued in 2019. Earlier this year, dentists provided him with dolphin-style dental crowns so that he can now clamp down on live fish.
Johnny was the first of the three dolphins to swim out to sea.
Ric and Lincoln O’Barry have spent half a century working on saving dolphins from captivity in locations from Brazil to South Korea and the United States. Saturday’s release was their first in Indonesia.