The Dolphin Angels continue to spread the word about Misha and Tom and encourage others to participate in this real life story; the story of Misha and Tom, ambassadors of hope for all dolphins in captivity everywhere.

Only a few short weeks ago Misha and Tom two Bottlenose dolphins made international headline news as the Born Free Foundation stepped in with marine mammal experts, the Dolphin Angels and lawyer Şule Beder their lawyer, masterminded their early morning emergency rescue from certain death in a small festering pool in the tourist resort of Hisarönü.

In the weeks that followed the rescue Dolphin Angels locally have continued to step up to the mark to provide support to the team on the ground caring for Misha and Tom and volunteered their time to assemble the new sea pen especially designed for the dolphins rehabilitation. Dolphin Angels world wide have made generous donations of essential items and much needed cash as well as organise events to raise funds for the Born Free Foundation who are paying for all the costs associated with the rescue and rehabilitation process.

The emergency rescue was just the beginning of a process to return both Misha and Tom “Back to the Blue”. Paramount in everyone’s minds was the seriousness of the task ahead. The results of the health check tests on the dolphins taken by the eminent and world renowned Vet John Knight and Turkish Vet Erdem Danyer on the morning of the rescue showed that both dolphins health had seriously deteriorated since the last tests taken a few weeks previously.

Seeing Misha and Tom return to their natural habitat generated mixed emotions; joy was tempered by trepidation for what the future might hold.

The Born Free team and their experts wasted no time putting the team and the systems in place, in accordance with recognised protocols to prepare the two ailing dolphins for rehabilitation.

Top of the agenda and implemented by Vet Erdem was a strict regime to first rebuild Misha and Tom’s strength, fattening them up with a special diet of fresh fish and multi vitamins, and then to treat and free them from the diseases and parasites they had inherited from their time captive in a confined and dirty pool.

While both Misha and Tom showed no signs of the stressful bobbing they exhibited for days when transferred from Kaş to Hisarönü after the emergency rescue their responses to their new environment was mixed after their initial excited reaction to being back in sea water. Misha seemingly enjoyed her food, soon eating a little more each day; Tom though was temperamental in his feeding patterns and a little naughty trying to distract Misha from eating when he himself didn’t fancy a bite to eat.

A couple of weeks ago rehabilitation expert Stephen McCulloch, Founder and Program Manager of Harbor Branch Oceanographic, Florida (pictured), flew in from the States. Steve like many others involved in the rehabilitation project including the Dolphin Angels, Mark Stevens, Gavin Parsons, Alan and John Knight, is volunteering his time for free. So there was no time to waste and everything had to be ready for Steve to make his initial assessment of the dolphin’s readiness for rehabilitation and to facilitate the move of the dolphins a few hundred metres from the temporary to the new sea pen.

Dolphin Rehabilitation expert Stephen McCulloch, Founder and Program Manager of Harbor Branch Oceanographic, Florida with Misha and Tom

Local Dolphin Angels who had worked so tirelessly for Misha and Tom’s release once again volunteered to be part of the team required to assist with assembling the new sea pen, which came complete with a smaller medical pen. Andy Trent, Barry and Karen Prowse, Dawne Büyükkoca and Nichola Chapman joined forces with the dolphins’ carers Erdem and Derya, camping out on the stony beach for the best part of three weeks as they assembled the pipes and nets in anticipation of the pending move.

The dolphins moved to the new much larger sea pen, designed by Alan Knight of International Animal Rescue, from the temporary sea pen that ironically had seemed so large and inviting with its clean clear sea water only a few weeks ago was a crucial next step in the rehabilitation process providing more space and freedom for two dolphins.

The day of the move arrived Steve led the assembled team through their tasks directing constructed practice runs prior to the actual move itself and ensured that everyone knew their role and the part they were to play. It was no mean feat as can be imagined, two much fatter and heavier dolphins had to be lifted out of the water and onto a boat with a team grounded not on a solid pool floor but balanced on a net suspended in water and held tight by a team on the wooden platform on each side of the pen.

Steve assisted in the water by Amy, Barry, Banu, Deniz, Doğan, Erdem, Gavin and John, gained the confidence of Misha and Tom who showed a determination not to be separated, demonstrating the strong bond between them; but surely, first one then both dolphins had been lifted onto the newly made stretchers and carried onto the boat for health tests and the short move to the new sea pen.

By late afternoon as the sun was setting Misha and Tom were safely in their new pen and the whole team gave a collective sigh of relief while Misha and Tom for the first time in years suddenly had 30 metres surface water in diameter and not four metres depth but more than 15 metres to the sea floor; theirs to explore.

There is still a long way to go before Misha and Tom will be finally released “Back to the Blue”, free to swim once again in the wild where they belong. Dolphin Angels around the world, too numerous to mention by name but determined to do their bit, have showed true dedication and resolve by continuing their support by making donations and organising fundraising events and activities to raise the much needed cash for the Born Free Foundation to fund the rehabilitation process.

The Dolphin Angels continue to spread the word about Misha and Tom and encourage others to participate in this real life story; the story of Misha and Tom, ambassadors of hope for all dolphins in captivity everywhere.

Author Nichola Chapman

The Dolphin Angels evolved as a growing movement of people from around the world dedicated to one thing, to free and rehabilitate Misha and Tom and see them released “Back to the Blue”; their natural habitat the sea. Join the Dolphin Angels on Facebook – Free the Ölüdeniz Dolphins

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