South Korea to release 13-year-old zoo dolphin back into wild

SEOUL, May 11, 2013 (AFP) - A 13-year-old dolphin was being transported to an ocean pen off a South Korean island for training to prepare it for release back into the wild after four years in a Seoul zoo, officials said.

The female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, which had been at Seoul Grand Park Zoo since 2009, was flown by a special charter jet to the southern island of Jeju accompanied by an 11-member team of veterinarians and zoo keepers.

"It is not only a matter of one dolphin going home but a matter of the relationship between animals and humans, between Mother Nature and humans," Seoul mayor Park Won Woon said.

Television pictures showed the famous dolphin called "Jedol" being transferred by stretcher to a vehicle for its journey to the airport and its flight to Jeju.

The costs for releasing the dolphin were raised through donations led by animal right activists.

Jedol will join two other dolphins in an open ocean cage in Jeju for adjustment training before being set free as early as next month.

In March last year, Seoul Grand Park Zoo suspended a popular dolphin show starring Jedol and two other dolphins over claims by activists that they were captured illegally.

The zoo decided to return Jedol to the wild but keep the two others because they were too old and weak to be released.