Thursday, October 30, 2008

Share Your Holiday Photo with a Dolphin!

A Definite Holiday Classic!

This holiday season, change your tradition from photos with Santa to a photo with Santini – or Rainbow, Pax, Pandora, or one of Dolphin Research Center’s other dolphins. Beginning October 30th and going through December 22nd, we’re again offering photo sessions for individuals or families up to four people to pose along with a dolphin.

A high-quality digital image will be provided on CD which can then be used for a holiday photo. Sessions are available twice a day, mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and booked on a walk-in basis. Feel free to dress up in holiday garb and bring your Santa hats and reindeer antlers to further capture the spirit of the season! There is a single $35 fee for the group, in addition to individual admission prices. For more info, call 305-289-1121, ext. 203.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Learning Never Ends

Gypsi and Tursi taught a volunteer something new!

Each year, a significant number of people generously volunteer at DRC. They take on a lot of different duties and responsibilities, easing the workload of staff. We couldn’t do what we do without their help! Some volunteers are here for a few weeks; some are accepted as interns and are here for three to four months, focusing on a particular department for career experience. Some of these wonderful people were never even near dolphins until they came to DRC. We thought it would be interesting to ask them what they’ve learned from their DRC experiences that didn’t know before. Here are some of their answers.

Linda M. shared how moved she’s been seeing Jax’s progress. It’s amazed her that this wild dolphin has been adopted by both people and dolphins and has assimilated into the family.

Sue has learned a lot about dolphin behavior. She once saw Tursi pushing a completely inert Gypsi around the lagoon. At first she was scared that something was wrong, but a trainer assured her it was natural and that Gypsi was demonstrating totally submissive behavior to her mother.

Sarah had no idea how much it costs to feed and care for the dolphins and operate a facility like DRC. She was also impressed with how many people we educate with our programs.

Linda H. remarked on all the interns and resource pool volunteers who visit from around the country and around the world. It’s interesting to her to see them first arrive, a little unsure about their role, and then grow into being part of the team, part of the family.

Becca concurs, saying that it’s easy to be part of the DRC family because everyone else is so welcoming.

Merina brightened a volunteer's day!

Allie is impressed by how much the dolphins seem to pick up on human emotion. Once when she was having a down day, she sat out by the front lagoon and Merina just popped up and stayed near her, making eye contact. Allie thought it was almost like they were having a silent conversation.

Sandy agrees. Her prior experience was mostly with dogs and horses, but she feels that the dolphins show that same sort of connection with people.

Jeanette was talking to a visitor one day who had previously done a dolphin swim somewhere else. She asked how the Dolphin Encounter here compared and the visitor told her there was no comparison. She loved her experience at DRC and said it was obvious that the dolphins love us! Jeanette has also learned about another local species and said she now realizes that it’s more fun to watch manatees doing their own thing in her local canal than it is to give them food or water. She now spreads that conservation message to her neighbors so that nobody interferes with the manatees’ natural behavior.

Rainbow loves showing off his athleticism, as well as his "smarts"!

Linda M. once watched Rainbow doing a session in our “Less” research study. It was obvious to her that Bo sulked when he got an answer wrong. When he answered correctly and got all excited for himself, she cried! She couldn’t believe that a dolphin could do something so special.

Barb has made volunteer trips here for many years. Early on, she was told that when we step down to the docks, we are entering the dolphins’ home. She’d never thought of it quite that way before and the message made a big impression.

Finally, Becky, who is the Director of Volunteer Resources, told us that she’s learned something very special, too. Before she came to DRC, she didn’t know there were so many terrific people in the world.

Many thanks to all of DRC’s wonderful volunteers. We’re so glad you’re part of the DRC family!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jax Meets Jack!

Suzi and Jack Hanna meet Jax for the first time

On Wednesday, October 15th, DRC welcomed renowned wildlife expert and television host Jack Hanna to the lagoons to tape a segment for his Emmy-winning children’s series Into the Wild. Jack had visited DRC years ago and both he and his wife, Suzi, really enjoyed this return trip. They interviewed Mandy Rodriguez (DRC’s co-founder and Executive Vice-President) for an “overall” perspective of DRC today. Then Vice-President of Animal Care and Training Linda Erb took them into the lagoon to meet Jax.

They learned all about Jax’s amazing story of survival, and how he joined the DRC family and has been adopted into the pod. All of this special attention with television cameras, a boom microphone and several crew members didn’t faze Jax one bit. He shone in the spotlight, giving everyone a chance to see his special “dolphinality”.

Jax seemed very relaxed as he soaked up lots of extra attention.

After the interview, Jack and Suzi shared a Dolphin Encounter with Madison (Oldest granddaughter of Mandy and Jayne Shannon Rodriguez, DRC’s co-founder and President/CEO. Maddy demonstrated terrific dorsal tow technique and a great time was had by everyone.

Although DRC does a fair number of media visits every year, this was a particularly special one for many of us on staff. We’ve watched Jack Hanna for years on his own television shows, as well as when he has been a guest on programs such as The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, and Late Night with David Letterman. He’s a warm, gracious man and generously posed for pictures with many of the staff.

This episode of Into the Wild will most likely air in Spring 2009. The show is syndicated in major markets around the country. The producer promised to let us know an airdate and we’ll happily share that news with all of you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dolphin Fun Facts

We think pretty much everything about dolphins is fun, but we admit we're biased. That said, visitors to DRC ask a lot of great questions and we enjoy sharing more knowledge about the dolphins. Here are a couple of facts that you might not know.

How fast can dolphins swim? Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, like the ones that live at Dolphin Research Center, can swim as fast as 24.5 miles per hour. Typically, they cruise along at an average speed of one to seven miles per hour.

How deep can they dive? The maximum recorded dive depth for Atlantic bottlenose species is 1280 feet. Wow!

Do dolphins in the wild have predators? Yes. Various shark species are known to attack dolphins. Most likely they prey on young dolphins, lone dolphins, or dolphins that might have slowed down due to a variety of reasons. It's believed that orcas might also consider dolphins prey, but this report derives from apparent scarring seen on dolphins, not from any observed attacks.

One of the main dangers to dolphins continues to be humans! As a species, we need to always remain aware of our impact on the ocean environment -- and continue to do our best to reduce pollution, other forms of marine debris, and other negative, mankind-caused problems!