Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Tom and Misha - Close to Freedom

See a report about Tom and Misha's story on CNN here >

Below is recent footage taken by Born Free

Rescued Dolphins Tom and Misha Prepare for a Wild Life:

Complex Rehabilitation Programme Enters Final Stages

Following Tom and Misha’s dramatic rescue from a small, filthy pool in Hisaronu, Turkey, in 2010 by international wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation, Jeff Foster, the marine mammal expert who has supervised their rehabilitation programme, today declared them ready for release.

After 20 months of painstaking rehabilitation work, that has involved an extensive team of experts working tirelessly to increase the dolphins’ levels of fitness and to revert their diet back to live fish, Tom and Misha are now fit and healthy and enthusiastically hunting their own food.

Looking out at the dolphins as they swim in their specially constructed sea pen in the sparkling Aegean sea, Jeff said, 

“You can sense they are ready to go. Our work in preparing them for the chance of life back in the ocean has reached its conclusion and I believe the team’s hard work has equipped them to take this amazing opportunity. When the sea pen net is finally unzipped they’ll be free to leave. I hope they will swim off and not look back.”

Tom and Misha’s rehabilitation has been a complex journey. Originally captured from the wild six years ago, Jeff’s work with them has been carefully judged to suit their specific, individual needs, learning abilities and characters. “Much has been learnt from previous rehabilitation projects and I hope this one will bring all that knowledge to bear and result in a successful attempt to get these dolphins home free”, Jeff commented.

Having worked with marine mammals for over four decades, including on the rehabilitation of Keiko, the orca star of the film ‘Free Willy’, and also on returning a young female orca named Springer to her family in the wild, Jeff is acutely aware of how important his project is. Building on previous release programmes such as Into The Blue which helped bring an end to the keeping a cetacean in captivity in the UK more than 20 years ago, Tom and Misha’s journey to freedom could provide a replicable pathway for more dolphins in the future. He believes firmly though that Tom and Misha are as ready as they can be to take their chance and head ‘Back to the Blue’.

Throughout their rehabilitation programme, improving the dolphins’ health has been a top priority for Born Free’s veterinary consultant John Knight.  John said, “As a welfare and conservation organisation Tom and Misha’s wellbeing has always been at the top of our agenda. To this end we have monitored them daily, with veterinary intervention and prophylactic care given as required. An important aspect of this monitoring process has been the regular collection and examination of blood and other samples. Taken together, this has allowed us to follow their health and welfare in great detail, and ensure that their release poses no risk to other wildlife in the area.”

In Turkey to help with final preparations for the release, Alison Hood, Programme Director for the Born Free Foundation, concluded, “This has been a long journey for all involved; and it is a journey that has only been made possible thanks to the amazing dedication of the team here and the continued support and encouragement we have received from our colleagues at British Divers Marine Life Rescue; Tom and Misha’s original champions, the ‘Dolphin Angels’; our original Turkish partners the Underwater Research Society; and our friends at Global Sailing. Waving Tom and Misha off will be a high point in my more than 20 years working for animals”. 

Tom and Misha will have satellite tags fitted at the time of their release and their progress in the wild will be tracked by the Rehabilitation Team.

(c) J. Foster

Born Free would like to thank Dolphin Angels and British Divers Marine Life Rescue for their support with the ‘Back to the Blue’ project.

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