Author: Bev Garside

True Story: The Return to the Wild of Captive Animals

A true-life adventure that saw Bev leading a campaign to return captive dolphins to the wild.

In the 1970s there were thirty dolphin shows in the UK. By 1989 there were three. Today there are none. In this blog we detail how Bev was involved in closing two of such shows and how their three dolphin captives were given the chance of freedom.

In June 1989, a young Bev visits Morecambe Marineland, Lancashire. Instead of enjoying her visit, she is distressed to learn of the solitary dolphin that spent his life alone in the barren concrete pool that was his home. Rocky had been captured from the wild and snatched away from his dolphin pod and brought to the world of the marine circus. There he was trained to do tricks and entertain crowds.

The water of the aquarium was not living water like the sea, instead, Rocky lived in a lifeless world and Bev was determined to end his misery. She handed a petition to Morcambe council, signed by 4000 people and lead a peaceful picketing campaign.

In a speech Bev states, “We firmly believe that if Rocky isn’t taken from his existing surroundings and placed in a more humane and natural environment…this concrete box which has been his ‘home’ will become his grave.”

To garner support, Bev contacted Zoo Check (part of the Born Free Foundation) to see if they could help. Together with other animal welfare organisations, they set up a rescue project for dolphins called “Into the Blue”. Alongside this, a celebrity driven publicity campaign and a high profile appeal from The Mail on Sunday raised £100,000 towards the rescue.

By January 1991, after weeks of planning and deliberation, the time came for Rocky to be lifted out of his concrete prison and taken to another pool with other dolphins. This rescue was undertaken by expert vets and a team of experienced dolphin handlers. Little did Rocky know that he was being transferred by his rescuers to the clear blue waters and wide-open ocean of a little island in the West Indies called Providenciales.

The journey brought him by aeroplane over 5000 miles to a safe haven where he could learn to live again as a wild dolphin. During this 26-hour journey, Rocky was constantly monitored by vet Dr Richard Kock. He was eventually released into the lagoon that acted as a ‘halfway house’ where Rocky learned how to live as a wild dolphin again, catching and eating live fish.

Here, his rescuers prepared him for his eventual return to the open sea.

The weeks that followed saw several additional rescue dolphins being introduced to the lagoon with Rocky thanks to the hard work and activism of the Into the Blue team. When the time was right, a further five months later, the three dolphins were introduced to an ocean pen, 12 miles out to sea. Soon enough the gate of the ocean pen had been removed and nothing stood between the dolphins and the open sea. It was not a decision that was taken lightly due to the considered risk however; after consulting the vets and handlers it is agreed to be the final step.

After a few days returning to and from their rescuers’ boat, the three dolphins finally swam away into the endless blue of the ocean to embark on their new lives, wild at sea.

Since their release, the dolphins have been seen over 50 times, either alone, in pairs or all together. The Into the Blue project is no longer needed as thankfully, there are no more captive dolphins in the UK. But the story of Rocky, Missy and Silver has inspired groups all over the world to campaign for a day where the only place dolphins will live, is in the wild.

Bev continues to be an environmental activist and long-time vegan, dedicating herself to protection of the natural world and the beings that reside in it.