TOKYO (AP) — Three bottlenose dolphins have been released into the open sea in Indonesia after years of being confined for the amusement of tourists.
As Indonesian flags fluttered, underwater gates opened off the island of Bali to allow Johnny, Rocky, and Rambo to swim free.
The trio was rescued three years ago from their tiny pool in a resort hotel to which they had been sold after spending years performing in a traveling circus.
They regained their health and strength at the Bali sanctuary, a floating pen in a bay that provided a more natural environment.
Lincoln O'Barry, who worked with the Indonesian government to set up the Umah Lumba Rehabilitation, Release and Retirement Center in 2019, says dolphins are wild animals that should live free.
“It was an incredibly emotional experience to see them go,” O'Barry said in an interview with the Associated Press.
The center said the dolphins looked at the opening for about an hour before they made their way out. Once they were free, they jumped over choppy waves.
They made a final loop back to the sanctuary before going on their merry way.
“They turned back around and came back to us one more time, almost to say thank you and goodbye. And then they headed straight out to open ocean and disappeared,” O’Barry said to the Associated Press.
For the next year, the trio will be monitored through GPS tracking.