Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Babies!

Ras is a crowd-pleaser with her jumps! Cayo is an independent little charmer

Nobody can resist Gypsi's big grins!
Time flies by or, in the case of dolphin babies, swims by! It’s hard to believe that the youngest members of the Dolphin Research Center pod are turning two years old. We celebrated Ras’s birthday on November 24th. Cayo’s birthday was December 13th. Then, on January 6th, Gypsi turns two.

We now know all three of the proud papas for the little girls, too. Kibby is the father of Ras. Cayo’s dad is Noel at Miami Seaquarium. Rainbow is Gypsi’s dad.

It’s kind of fun to figure out how different dolphins are related. DRC keeps exact track of the family connections. We obviously know maternal relations through their mothers’ right from the get-go, but father parentage spreads new branches on the family trees. Kibby is also Pandora’s father, so that makes her and Ras half-sisters. Rainbow and Tursi previously got together and produced Pax, so Gypsi has an older full-brother in Pax, as well as a half-brother in Talon. She also is half-sister to Calusa since they share a father in Bo-dacious.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Sandy loves balancing basketballs on his rostrum

Instead of tossing the large disk, Calusa surfs on it.
Most of the time, people visit DRC and expect to be entertained by the dolphins and Kilo. That happens, of course, but what you might not realize is that you are also here to entertain them in return.
In addition to delivering top quality food, providing excellent health care, and maintaining a beautiful, clean living environment, we want to make sure that the dolphins aren’t bored, and that their lives are filled with interesting activities. This is known as enrichment and it can happen in many ways. Their training sessions and learning new behaviors, participating in research, or even simply flying around the lagoon in those spectacular aerials are all forms of enrichment.
The dolphins and Kilo are very playful, so giving them different types of toys and other things to play with is very enriching, too. Interacting with them either in their regular sessions, or at casual, unstructured times is another way we enhance their lives. All of DRC’s staff gets to take part in something called voluntary docktime. It’s all up to the dolphins whether they come over to get a backrub or want to initiate a game of seaweed toss when we visit the docks in their lagoons.
You might wonder how your visit provides enrichment. Simple. Your very presence around their lagoons interests dolphins and sea lions. Many of them go out of their way to solicit your attention. Then, when you smile, look at them and talk or laugh or applaud, your actions reinforce their efforts. They’re all very curious so the more people around, the better.
The next time you visit Dolphin Research Center, remember that not only will you learn a lot and have fun, but you’re creating fun for the family pod, too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

'Tis the Season!

There’s still time to get a holiday photo taken with the dolphins at DRC. We offer the program twice a day, seven days a week. Who needs reindeer when you can pose on a dock next to Rainbow? Dash away all and visit the DRC website for more information about Holiday Photos. (Available until 12/22!)

In the meantime, DRC recently received some wonderful gifts. At the Parrotheads in Paradise convention in Key West, Vice President of Marketing and Development Rita Irwin was presented with a $5000.00 check. Many thanks to all the Jimmy Buffet fans who made that donation possible. DRC was also named the Best Tourist Attractor by the Marathon Chamber of Commerce.

DRC's VP of Marketing and Development Rita Irwin holds the Parrotheads' donation check for Pax to admire.

Pax approves of DRC's "Best Tourist Attractor" award presented by the Marathon Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DRC Rescues Injured Manatee!

Brad Rose and Ted Due of DRC's Manatee Rescue Team with the injured manatee

DRC's Medical Director Pat Clough (r-front in gray cap) rinses Blitzen's wounds and monitors his respiration while other team members help steady the manatee. (Also pictured, from left are Brad Rose, Chris Haydu, Ryan Bliss, Mandy Rodriguez and Bette Zirkelbach.)

Dolphin Research Center's Manatee Rescue Team and FWCC manatee personnel rescued a badly injured manatee on Monday, December 9th from the waters near mile marker 88.5 (Bayside) in Islamorada.

The 11-foot long, male manatee was seriously injured with lacerations to his head and body by a boat propeller. The worst gash, which spread from his eye to the middle of his forehead, is so deep that it cut through the cranium and into the sinuses. After his rescue, the manatee was transported to Miami Seaquarium for treatment.

Now named Blitzen, the manatee has shown himself to be a determined survivor. He was first spotted on Thursday, December 4th in the marina at Sunshine Key, mile marker 39 in the Lower Keys. The DRC team, FWCC, and staff from Miami Seaquarium attempted to rescue him several times on that day, but he evaded capture. We alerted the media and they spread the word to residents, asking them to please keep an eye out for the manatee and report to officials if they spotted him.

Over the next few days, sightings were reported in Marathon and then, on Sunday night, in Islamorada -- upwards of 50 miles away from where he was first spotted the previous week! DRC team members were on the scene in a boat at first light on Monday, cruising the area and hoping to locate him.

Finally, around 11 a.m., an Islamorada resident called DRC and said that the manatee was in the canal outside her home. The entire team mobilized, met FWCC staff at the site, and prepared for the rescue attempt. We launched the rescue boat from Futura Yacht Club, and set the net at the mouth of the canal. With some gentle urging from other personnel in a kayak and on the tracking boat, Blitzen swam toward the end of the canal, heading for open water.

The team swiftly encircled him with the net and, with a coordinated team effort and lots of muscle power, successfully brought him on board the rescue boat. Thankfully, they only had to make a short trip to the boat ramp where, with help from Yacht Club residents and some Coast Guard personnel, the animal was rolled into a stretcher and carried him on shore.

Once on land, resting on soft foam pads, Blitzen was examined by DRC's Medical Director Pat Clough. She monitored his respiration and rinsed his wounds. Soon after, the team loaded him into a truck for transport to Miami Seaquarium.

Miami Seaquarium veterinarian Dr. Maya Rodriguez further examined him and began treatment. He will undergo X-rays, receive antibiotics, and be constantly observed in hopes that he will fully recover from his injuries. Seaquarium staff will provide excellent care to Blitzen and do their absolute best to help him get better.

Blitzen's injuries are a strong reminder of the danger faced by manatees when they come too close to boats. They also serve as a painful lesson to people on why they should not offer food or water from a hose to these gentle giants. Doing so encourages them to come closer to docks and busy marinas and greatly increases the chance that they will be hit by boats. Providing food and water is similar to placing your dog's food and water bowls in the middle of a busy street! It is also illegal to feed manatees in the wild.

Many thanks to all the residents who looked out for Blitzen, as well as those who helped on the day of the rescue. Let's all keep our flippers crossed that he responds to treatment and recovers!