Bibongi, the last Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin held in captivity in South Korea, is to be returned to the wild after 17 years.
The country's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announced on August 3rd that it was to begin preparations for the male dolphin's eventual release, which includes a period of training him for life back in the wild.
Bibongi has been in captivity since 2005 when he was accidentally caught in a fishing net near Biyangdo Island, a small volcanic island off Jeju Island. He has spent the last 17 years performing in shows at the Pacific Resom (formerly Pacific Land) marine park in the Jeju city of Seogwipo.
It is thought that around 120 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins live in the waters around Jeju island. In 2012, the species was designated an endangered marine species and afforded government protection and management.
Since then, eight dolphins that were held in marine parks around Korea have been released back into the wild. Bibongi is around 23 years old and will spend time in a sea pen learning how to catch live fish and reacclimatise to the marine environment before being released. He will be tracked and monitored to check on his health and integration back into the wild population.
The release programme in South Korea has been extremely successful so far. Three female dolphins returned to the wild have joined the wild population and given birth to calves.