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!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video of the Week!

Hi, Everyone,

Dolphin Research Center is the Video of the Week on the Florida Keys official tourism website. Check it out at!

Friday, November 7, 2008

DRC Salutes Veterans and the Military

Throughout November, Dolphin Research Center is saluting our armed forces by offering free admission to any veteran or current military service personnel, plus a guest. You need only show your military identification or other proof of service to receive free admission.

Thank you for all that you have done, and are doing.

Recently, DRC staff and volunteers who are veterans gathered for this photo along with Theresa, our oldest dolphin. Theresa is herself a veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy's dolphin program before coming to live at DRC in 1968.

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!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Kids Who Grew Up to Work Together

We often talk about the fact that we are one family at Dolphin Research Center – footed, finned and flippered! Most of you know that we have two and three generations of dolphins. You might not realize, however, that we also have two generations of dolphin trainers. Kelly Jayne Rodriguez is the daughter of the DRC co-founders President/CEO Jayne Shannon Rodriguez and Executive Vice President Mandy Rodriguez. Jennifer Erb is the daughter of Vice President of Animal Care and Training Linda Erb.

Kelly Jayne and Jenn both grew up at DRC, playing here with their siblings as well as the DRC dolphins. (Something that Jayne and Mandy’s granddaughter/Kelly Jayne’s niece Madison now does, too!)

As young adults, they now work with dolphins as a career. Recently, KJ and Jenn engaged in some informal playtime with the dolphins up in the front lagoon. Jenn threw out an oversized inflated beachball and the game was on. Ras and Gypsi chased after it, batting it around, and then steering it back to the dock so Jenn could toss it out again and again. Santini got into the act, playing with the ball and screaming encouragement at Kelly Jayne and Jenn. Maybe she remembers when they all used to play as kids.

Eventually, Ras steered the ball into the far corner and got it stuck in the mangroves. Kelly Jayne carefully walked the narrow boardwalk ledge across the lagoon to rescue the ball. She tossed it back to the dolphins, and what do you think Santini did?

She knocked it back into the mangroves again for KJ to retrieve. Tina smiled as if to say, “See what I made you do?” Definitely the dolphins like to turn the tables and train us!

Jenn came over to help and a new game started. Whenever one of the young women tossed back the ball, one of the dolphins took aim and tried to knock it under the boardwalk or into the mangroves.

The fun continued for quite sometime while guests and other staff members laughed and applauded the action. Finally, KJ and Jenn had to go off to do a “real” session with other dolphins, but everybody – dolphin and human – knew that another chance for playtime would come around soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Keeping the Keys Clean!

The cleanup crew gathers around all the debris we collected.

On Friday, September 19th, around 25 Dolphin Research Center staff members and volunteers pitched in to clean up the bridge and surrounding area at the Tom’s Harbor Cut, mile marker 60.6. In less than two hours, the cleaning crew gathered 35 bags of trash, plus a snarled mass of rope so big it took the towing power of two Jeeps to pull it completely out of the water. A discarded fishing net, a truck tire, broken step stool, dive tank, pieces of rebar and a large assortment of other debris were also collected.
In addition to polluting the ocean environment, all of these items have the potential to harm dolphins, manatees, birds, turtles and other marine life!

We tried to haul out this snarled rope, but finally needed two Jeeps to get it out of the water!

It’s amazing that so much junk can be found at a single location. Recent storms might have contributed to blowing some of the stuff around and into the water, but there were plenty of bottles, cans, bottle caps, cigarette butts and other trash items found that clearly were discarded by people using the bridge.

At least this junk is no longer polluting the ocean!

Dolphin Research Center performs cleanups at this area a few times a year. Friday’s event was scheduled in cooperation with the Ocean Conservancy’s annual Coastal Cleanup

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rainbow . . . Kibby . . . Marco . . . Polo

Kibby and Rainbow can turn any activity into a game!

Trainer Marie recently went out to narrate a session on the causeway. Rainbow and Kibby decided to add their two cents. Every once in awhile one of the dolphins made a short, loud sound. Within seconds, the other dolphin responded with a similar sound of his own. Back and forth they continued and Marie had a difficult time not laughing during her narration. This vocalization exchange reminded Marie of the game Marco Polo which is usually played in swimming pools. One person closes his or her eyes and calls out, “Marco”, the listens while everyone else responds “Polo”. The Marco person then swims in the direction of the closest voice and tries to tag them.

Leave it to Kibby and Rainbow to create a dolphin version!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mother Knows Best

Here at Dolphin Research Center, we have an excellent reason for teaching the dolphins a behavior called beaching. For this behavior, they bring their entire bodies up out of the water onto one of the floating docks. We have a flat metal scale we can put on the docks and then, when they beach on it, we can obtain an accurate weight.

To us, it’s an important voluntary medical behavior. The dolphins just think it’s fun! When Santini and Merina first learned to beach, they’d practice it by themselves all the time. We’d look over and see dolphins posing on the dock for guests. Their older kids, Pandora, Calusa and Tanner did the same thing when it was their turn to learn. It’s no surprise that Ras, Santini’s young daughter, is already slipping and sliding her way across the dock and Cayo (Merina’s youngest) is quickly progressing.

Tursi is another matter. While Tursi will beach on request, she’s often finicky about it and prefers to do it on the very edge of the dock. She is not sure at all that her daughter is old enough to be learning this particular behavior. Well, Gypsi has a mind of her own and she doesn’t want Mom to keep her from doing things that her slightly older friends are trying.

Gypsi shows us that she definitely has a mind of her own!
The other day, Gypsi succeeded in eluding her mother long enough so that she could boost her entire little body up out of the water onto one of the docks. Santini decided to join her in the behavior. However, when she came up, she slid into Gypsi a bit and the youngster ended more in the middle of the dock, and unable to wiggle herself off back into the water.

Seconds after Santini slipped from the dock, mother Tursi noticed what had happened. She sped up, launched herself out of the water in perfect beaching style right to the center of the dock and bumped Gypsi back into the water! She then chased her little girl around the lagoon, as if to say, “See what happened? I told you not to do that!” Gypsi kept leaping out of the water as if answering, “Okay, okay! I get it now!”

Tursi knows best when it comes to her daughter!

We don’t know how long the lesson will stick, but knowing Gypsi, she’ll continue practicing her beaching whenever she can do it without Tursi stopping her. As for Tursi, we always knew she could beach perfectly. She’s just reinforced that she prefers to do it on her terms!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

DRC to Reopen Thursday after Hurricane Ike

Luckily, Dolphin Research Center and all of the Florida Keys were spared a direct hit by Hurricane Ike. Over the course of a tense few days, while we constantly monitored forecast reports by the National Hurricane Center, the storm pushed further south over Cuba where it dropped in force to a Category 1.

All day on Tuesday, the Keys experienced gusty Tropical Storm force winds, rain showers, and some surging surf. However, all in all, we really feel like we dodged a big bullet. Our hearts go out to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti, Cuba, and other places who were not spared the devastation of Hurricane Ike.

We're delighted to report that everyone in the Dolphin Research Center dolphin and sea lion family is fine and the facility did not suffer any major physical damage. Monroe County officials have announced that visitors can return to the Florida Keys as of this Thursday, September 11th. Dolphin Research Center will reopen on Thursday morning so that we can welcome visitors as they come back to our islands.

If you're coming to the Keys and would like to experience a Dolphin Encounter, Dolphin Dip or other interactive program, our reservations line will reopen on Thursday at 9 am eastern time -- 305-289-0002.

We hope to see you soon. The dolphins are waiting!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

DRC Prepared for Hurricane Ike

One of the most frequently asked questions we hear is, "How do you prepare for a hurricane?"

Since Hurricane Ike is churning in our general direction, we think this is an appropriate time to blog on this topic. First, we'd like to assure everyone that DRC has a detailed, comprehensive hurricane preparedness plan that addresses the many issues we face as a facility. Senior management has monitored the progress of several storms -- Hanna, Ike and Josephine -- all week and our preliminary preparation began a few days ago.

As you can imagine, hurricane preparation is an enormous process that requires a great deal of time, plus the hard work and team effort of everyone on staff. Each of us knows what to do to protect our own areas, and when finished, how to help other departments.

Yesterday, as soon as we received word that the Monroe County officials (All of the Keys are in Monroe County) had ordered a mandatory visitor evacuation to begin this morning, DRC officially closed to the public so that staff could secure our offices, the buildings, the grounds and, of course, the many animals in our family.

We removed and secured items that could blow loose in a storm: benches, dock steps, trash receptacles, picnic tables, sign frames -- you name it! Boats, vehicles -- even the "lunch truck" -- were locked up tight and moved away from the lagoons to a safer area.

As if high winds aren't enough of a threat, offices located on the ground floor must also prepare for the possibility of flooding. Computers and other equipment, important paperwork, and other items were moved to "higher ground", i.e. upper level buildings. Those of us already on the second floor also packed important files and smaller items into plastic tubs and covered our computers, printers, telephones and other electronic equipment with plastic bags -- just in case excessive wind and rainfall causes the roofs to leak.

Every window and door at the facility has strong shutters that we locked tight in place.

Hurricane Wilma's visit in 2005 taught us a valuable -- and costly -- lesson. The storm surge reached between 7 to 10 feet and devastated DRC with horrible flooding. We lost so much in terms of equipment, vehicles, docks, platforms and more. Some buildings had to be completely gutted and rebuilt from the inside. (Some buildings remain unusable.) We experienced problems with our telephone and computer systems for months.

When we rebuilt, we took the lesson to heart and made adjustments. For example, in the Animal Care and Training office on the ground floor nearest the dolphin lagoons, all of the power sockets and plugs for computers are located high up on the wall. We built an elevated concrete "hub" bunker to house the communications center. Generators for emergency power are located on elevated platforms, too.

To protect the precious food supply for our animals, we constructed the new fish freezer in solid, thick concrete and elevated it several feet above the ground.

The tropical birds were moved from the outdoor aviary into individual wire cages and relocated to a secure building. Although all of the cats are accustomed to roaming around outside, for the duration of the storm threat, they've also been moved inside.

As you know, we can't move the dolphins, but we prepare them as best we can. Executive Vice President/Co-Founder Mandy Rodriguez leads a skilled crew of people that stays at DRC during the storms, hunkering down in a secure building. As the storm approaches, the dolphins receive full meals of fish and, if they need it, some extra water, to take them through the event. As soon as the storm passes and it's safe for people to go outside, the crew will go out to the lagoons to check on the pod and feed them again.

In a worst case scenario, if the surge again topped or destroyed the fences, and the dolphins opted to go out to deeper water, we'd need to find them if they didn't return after the event. Most of our dolphins were born at DRC, or have lived most of their lives here or at another facility. Accustomed to human care, they lack adequate survival skills. Over the years we've developed helpful measures that we employ during hurricanes.

We've created special bands that they wear around their peduncles. These are constructed of a soft, stretchy wetsuit-like material in very bright colors with break-away fasteners. The bands are marked with DRC contact information. If for any reason the dolphins become lost and can't find their way home, we believe they will eventually seek out humans. The bright peduncle bands would immediately signify that these are special dolphins and help us reconnect with them.

The pod is also trained to respond to a recall device. Called a pinger, this device sends out a unique click sound that transmits one to two miles in the ocean. Every DRC dolphins knows that when they hear that sound, they should follow it back to its source. We practice this drill in the lagoons a few times a week. The dolphins rush to the pingers and receive an enthusiastic welcome and a delicious fish reward.

We've also been developing a hurricane pack that can be attached to the dorsal fin with some comfortable suction cups. A radio transmitter can be connected to the pack that would transmit a signal each time the dorsal broke the surface of the water when the dolphin rises to breathe. By tracking the signal, we could reunite with our beloved dolphins.

Senior management will continue to meet regularly in person or by phone during the storm. We know that we have done everything possible to secure DRC. Everyone except for the stay-behind crew needs to perform their own preparations at their homes. A mandatory evacuation for Florida Keys residents goes into effect in phases beginning Sunday morning.

Most of us will leave and take refuge elsewhere in Florida where Hurricane Ike, hopefully, won't visit. We'll wait, watch the hurricane reports, and pray that the storm doesn't deliver a crushing blow to our islands. Please think good thoughts for everyone at Dolphin Research Center -- footed, finned, furred, or flippered -- and for everyone who lives in the projected path of Hurricane Ike.

As soon as possible after the storm, we'll find out from the stay-behind crew how DRC fared. When we know, we'll post the information on the blog.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Did You Know?

Paper accounts for roughly 38% of landfill content

Americans use more than 67 million tons of paper per year (about 580 pounds per person).

Every year more than 900 million trees are cut down to create paper and paper products.

Every Sunday, Americans throw away 90 percent of newspapers, which are recyclable. This wastes 500,000 trees!

Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water!

Look for products made out of recycled material!

· Many cereal boxes are made with recycled paper

· Flooring can be made from crushed glass and broken light bulbs

· Ceiling tiles can be made from recycled newspaper

· Roofing can use recycled aluminum.

Save resources by reducing waste.

About 4 billion pounds of paper are used each year to create direct-mail catalogs.

Remove yourself from many marketing lists by registering online or send a postcard with your name, home address, and signature to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512. You can also contact a company directly and ask to be taken off its list.

Trees produce the oxygen we breathe. Recycling paper saves trees and helps marine mammals, people and other air-breathing species.

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle! It really makes a difference.

These tidbits were brought to you by your conservation-minded friends at Dolphin Research Center!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to School

This time of year, a young person's thoughts naturally turn toward heading back to school. At DRC, all of our dolphins, including our youngsters, enjoy learning new behaviors and games all year long. Cayo, Ras, Jax, Gypsi and her mother, Tursi, wish you an interesting, successful year in your studies. Remember -- you're never too young, or too old, to have fun learning!

Friday, August 22, 2008

DRC Survived Tropical Storm Fay!

We're happy to report that everyone at DRC -- whether they live in water or on land -- survived Tropical Storm Fay.

Winds at DRC hit gusts of up to 70 MPH with rainfall that reached 7" with an expected 2" to 4" additional over the next day or so. We got lucky with Fay and the structural damage was minimal - this time. The damage to our facilities included many downed tree limbs and damage to plants and bushes. As the clean up efforts move forward more structural and ground damage may become apparent.

The bad news is that though our expenses continued, we lost all income for two days from admissions, gift shop sales, swims and other interactive programs. Our visitors' safety is of paramount importance to us. Therefore, when Monroe County called a mandatory visitor evacuation, DRC closed our doors. Past evacuations have always resulted in a loss from both those who left the Keys and from those who will now cancel their upcoming plans.

On behalf of everyone at DRC we would like to thank the caring individuals who know how this impacts us and have already contacted with concern and financial help to get us through this period.

If you'd like to assist, how about becoming a virtual visitor to DRC today? Just click here and enjoy a virtual visit along with the great feeling that you are helping to keep DRC going despite Tropical Storm Fay's attempt to keep us closed.

Regardless of losses the most important thing is everyone is safe! Thank you for your thoughts, your concerns and the financial help you've provided DRC. Once again, you have all shown that the DRC family is an extremely caring and thoughtful group of people!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life's a Game & Everything's a Toy!

Gypsi (top) & Jax (bottom)
When you’re a young dolphin, just about anything in your lagoon gets treated like a toy. Different types of sea weed or sea grass, mangrove seed pods, small rocks – the natural lagoons provide a never ending supply of cool things with which to play. We often see one or two of the kids tossing these objects around and then swimming to get them before tossing them again. When staff members visit the docks for some casual playtime, Ras and Gypsi frequently instigate a game of seaweed toss. They arrive at the docks, carrying seaweed in their mouths and wait for the staff to remove it and then fling it out into the lagoon. The girls give chase and then pop back up at the dock for another go-round.

Recently, a coconut rolled into the front lagoon and shortly afterward drew the attention of the three youngsters living there -- Ras, Gypsi and Jax.

Although it sure was different than any of the balls they’ve played with before, the “kids” quickly got their game on. Gypsi swam around on her back, holding it in her pectoral flippers. Ras decided to jump over it a few times. Jax observed the antics, carefully inspecting the new object.

What fun to be a young dolphin!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

DRC Connections Around the World

One of the current Research interns recently applied for an intern position to assist with a humpback whale study in Australia. As it turns out, the person to whom she applied, and who eventually accepted her for the position, is a former DRC Research intern from 2004 who is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland!

This reminded us that DRC might be located in the Florida Keys, but we have connections with people around the world. DolphinLab students continue to pursue their studies. Numerous interns who spent months at DRC gaining valuable knowledge and experience have gone on to work within the fields of marine mammal care, training and research. Many of our trainers explored new avenues in their careers by taking jobs at other facilities, or in related fields, around the country. We’re fortunate that many of them keep in touch so we know how they’re progressing with their individual careers.

Let’s not forget our family of members and donors who live in every state, and numerous foreign countries.

Then, of course, there are the daily visitors to Dolphin Research Center. On any given day, you can stroll the grounds and hear families excitedly greeting the dolphins in German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, or other languages. Even the ones who speak English might sound a little different to the dolphins, with their British, Irish, Scottish, Welsh or Australian accents.

It’s like DRC is our own little United Nations – People from nations around the world united in their love of, and fascination with, dolphins!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

DRC Gets Corny!

DRC’s Gift Shop constantly looks for products that are good for the environment. We recently began carrying a line of goods that are made from corn! Corn is a terrific natural, biodegradeable, and renewable resource. This usage does not take a valuable product away from the country’s food supply. The type of corn used is field maize, and would not have been used for human consumption. Many farmers are adding this to the crops they grow in order to generate additional income.

The number of products made from corn plastic is amazing. Up above are pictures of a few that you’ll see in our Gift Shop, or online!

The commuter cup is solid and keeps your morning coffee or tea warm for your trip to work.

When you’re ready to begin shopping for school supplies, slip a pen and ruler made from corn plastic into your backpack – and spread the environmental joy with your fellow students.

Interested? Click here to visit our online Gift Shop.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Check Out DRC on Suze Orman's Website!

Recently, internationally known financial expert, author, and television personality Suze Orman visited Dolphin Research Center with family. They enjoyed a fun-filled Dolphin Encounter with Tursi, Gypsi and Jax. We had a great time meeting them all!

Now Suze has shared her experience with her fans and audience via her electronic scrapbook. To view photographs and a video of Suze's visit to DRC, visit Suze's site at

Thanks for your support and for joining the DRC family, Suze.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Did You Know? (Conservation Tip)

Using less gas saves money and the environment.

If you want to save gas, not to mention money from a speeding ticket and increased insurance rates, don’t speed. Slowing down gains two to four miles per gallon more than zooming everywhere like a racecar driver.

Avoid the "drag strip" mentality. Getting to your destination safely is the winning goal and gunning it only wastes more gas.

Keep your tires properly inflated. Can you imagine how much harder it is to move your car with flat tires? Under inflated tires waste gas and decrease the life of the tire. Overinflated tires also lessen tread life and can be dangerous.

Remove all unnecessary items inside the vehicle. (The bowling ball you left in the car last week, or the 20-pound bag of dog food.) Extra weight in the vehicle wastes gas.)

Plan your trips carefully. Combine several short trips to do all your errands. Avoid traveling during rush hours if possible. This reduces fuel-consumption patterns such as starting and stopping and numerous idling periods. Consider joining a car pool.

Consider a TerraPass to compensate for the carbon dioxide created by your car-
Click here to find out more about TerraPass.

Carbon dioxide emissions cause coral bleaching and death. Coral reefs are “fish nurseries” which produce food for many other ocean species. Less coral = less fish = less food for marine mammals.

In the United States, we use about 400 million gallons of gas a day.
Let’s decrease that number!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dolphin Dreams Come True - Swimmingly

We frequently hear from guests that interacting with dolphins is something they’ve dreamed of doing. Just recently, a visitor came out of her Dolphin Encounter swim and proclaimed it something she’s wanted to do her whole life!

She wasn’t quite 11. Good to know that we can help fulfill the dreams of people young and old.

Another guest said to the trainer, “I can cross that off of my bucket list!” (A bucket list is shorthand for “things you want to do before you kick the bucket”.) That woman has something in common with a large number of people. A few years ago, people in Great Britain said that swimming with dolphins was the number one thing they wanted to do before they die!

Still another visitor cried throughout her entire experience. Concerned, the trainer asked if she was okay. She replied, through her tears, “I’m just so happy I got to do this!”

Have you always dreamed of an up close introduction to an amazing dolphin? Visit our website to find out how you can make this dream come true!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Be Good to Our Dolphin Friends!

AJ reminds everyone that if you want to have a great time interacting with dolphins, visit Dolphin Research Center. Don't jump in the water with wild dolphins!

Summertime means that many of you who live or take vacations in coastal areas spend a lot more time out on boats for fishing, diving, snorkeling, or other recreational activities. It’s always a thrill when you’re out on the ocean and a pod of dolphins swims near your boat.

It’s also often a temptation. You want to get closer for pictures. Maybe you think you could feed them from your bait bucket to coax them closer. In some cases, you might think, “What’s the harm of swimming with them?”

Plenty. Swimming with wild dolphins in the United States is not only illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), but also risky with the potential of harm to both you and the dolphins!

Dolphins are powerful, animals. Playful? Sure! However, when they play with each other, they often play very rough with lots of rolling, tail-swatting, and raking of their teeth. They’ll sometimes pin each other to the ocean floor and engage in other behaviors that won’t hurt another dolphins, but that could cause a human serious injury – or worse!

How can closer interaction harm the dolphins? There are many ways. Feeding wild dolphins not only lures them closer to boats where there is greater risk of injury from propollers, but it also teaches them to be beggars instead of efficient hunters. Then, when denied food, they can become aggressive. Plus, if a female dolphin learns to take food from humans, that’s what her baby learns, too, and then the calf misses out on necessary hunting skills.

When they lose their natural caution around humans, they can also be hurt by unscrupulous people who pour liquids or pop foods down their blowholes – blocking their breathing passages!

You also don’t know what natural behavior you could be interrupting such as foraging, resting, nursing, or mating.

By following a few simple practices, you can enjoy the thrilling experience of viewing dolphins in the open oceans, while keeping it safe for yourself and your dolphin friends.

1) Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins. Put your engine in neutral, or turn it off and drift to minimize noise, and the risk of dolphins getting cut by your propeller.
2) Move away if dolphins exhibit signs of distress or disturbance.
3) Don’t swim, feed or touch wild dolphins!
4) Teach others to also respect these amazing animals.

Enjoy your summer!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Set Your TVs or TiVos for DRC on GMA this Monday!

UPDATE: GMA ran a segment called Keys to the Keys on Monday, July 21st. DRC was included in that segment. Here's a link to ABC News where you can view the video.

Click here.

This coming Monday, July 21st, Good Morning America meteorologist Sam Champion is scheduled to broadcast live from Key West. As part of the morning show, they want to show some of the other terrific locations, attractions, etc. throughout the Florida Keys.

In mid-afternoon on Friday, DRC received a call from a GMA producer, requesting footage of the facility and dolphins. Two DVDs went out via Priority Overnight, to arrive in New York on Saturday.

We don't know how much, if any, they will use, or when during the show it might air. Rest assured, we're setting our VCRs, TiVos and other recording equipment for the entire two-hour show.

Good Morning America airs on ABC from 7 am to 9 am, eastern time. Please check your local listings for the time in your area!

Keep your flippers crossed and your eyes peeled for beautiful DRC dolphins on GMA this Monday!

Monday, July 14, 2008

From the Hearts of Children

DRC’s Membership Department and Education Department have received wonderful letters from some of the dolphins’ youngest fans.

Kaleigh wrote to thank us for giving her information about endangered dolphins and then asked what she could do to help dolphins herself.

Lilian asked for some pictures of dolphins. She wants to make posters for her neighborhood field because people litter. Lilian then wondered, “. . . if people can carry things full like water bottles (sic) why can’t people carry them empty?”

That’s a great question, Lilian!

Mallory shows that you’re never too young to fall in love with dolphins and try to help. When she was 16 months old, she and her family visited DRC and Mallory loved seeing the dolphins up close. She has a charity piggy bank in which she saved over $13 herself before her second birthday! Her family then threw her a dolphin-themed birthday party and asked for donations in lieu of gifts. Mallory collected over $50 to send to the dolphins.

She and her family hope to visit DRC again when Mallory is 3 and can participate in some of the activities we offer. We hope they come again, too, so we can thank her in person.

Finally, a young student named Olivia came to DRC with classmates and teachers from The Calhoun School in New York City for a week-long DolphinLab program. She was inspired to write this poem about some of the dolphins in the DRC family.

I am Pandora and my belly is pink. My handler points downward and I start to sink.
My name is Pax and I like to fly. Jumping and diving and reaching the sky.
I am Rainbow and sleek, but I am gentle when I kiss your cheek.
My name is Sandy and I am long. Come here and listen to my sweet dolphin song.
I am Santini and I lay in the sun, but I see a blue bucket which signals the fun!
My name is Talon but I am no bird, and I am obedient, just say the word.
I am Tanner, but I cannot tan. I think the whole world is my #1 fan.
My name is Tursi, just watch me dive. Up in the air, I feel so alive!
My name is Aleta and I am so sweet. All of my friends are the ones I will keep.
I am Kibby and I am cool. I swim and I play and I chase fish by the schools.

We love the fact that the dolphins in the DRC family inspire people of all ages to care more about marine mammals and the environment. How great to see so many put that caring into action!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Learning to Train with Dolphins -- and Dogs!

DolphinLab students working with Tanner and AJ during Advanced Marine Mammal Training and Enrichment

A DolphinLab student trains a new behavior to a staff member's dog.

So many people tell us they dream of training dolphins. Not everybody gets to realize that dream but at Dolphin Research Center you can experience a lot of what is involved in working with these amazing animals.

We offer a few different DolphinLab classes that delve deeper into the training, care and enrichment of dolphins. Teen Advanced DolphinLab: Training I, for ages 15-17, and two courses for adults -- Marine Mammal Care and Basic Training and Advanced Marine Mammal Training and Enrichment courses – provide hands-on experience and academically intensive programs.

Students work side-by-side with Animal Care and Training and Education staff in multiple daily sessions where they learn to work directly with the dolphins. They also participate in various other activities – including learning how to present the dolphins to the public in a narrated behavior session.

In two of the classes, the students receive additional training experience from some canine instructors. In Teen Training I and Advanced Marine Mammal Training and Enrichment, each student works individually with a staff member’s dog. In three sessions a day, the students apply their newly-learned training principles and practices and train their dog partner a new behavior!

No other programs in the world provide this level of hands-on, in-depth training experience with dolphins and dogs, all supervised by our experienced trainers and educators. Students can also receive college credit for the two adult courses.

For more information including course dates, costs, and prerequisites, please click here to visit the DolphinLab area of our website!

Monday, July 7, 2008

How We Decide Which Dolphins Do Research

Talon and Rainbow are only two of the many dolphins who have participated in research projects.

When observing one of our research sessions, guests often ask how we decide which dolphins take part in a particular study. It isn’t a question of purposely trying to pick the “smartest” dolphins in the family. After all, we think they’re all pretty smart!

Instead, we consider the entire pod and ask ourselves questions like, Who has time to participate? and What else are they doing? Some studies take years to complete. In that case, we also have to look at long term plans. For example, if a female dolphin is pregnant, or might become pregnant, she’s going to be too busy raising her calf for the next few years to concentrate on a research project.

One very important question we always ask about individual dolphins is, Does he or she enjoy doing research? Remember, each dolphin has his or her own, unique “dolphinality”, so it stands to reason they might have likes and dislikes. Some dolphins totally love doing research. They get excited when we arrive at their lagoon with the apparatus and are eager to “play the game” when we ask the question. They don’t get discouraged easily and are willing to try again, even after they answer incorrectly. They don’t mind the repetition.

Other dolphins . . . not so much. There are other activities that they enjoy more. We respect those preferences.

It all comes down to the particular study and eachdolphin. Thankfully, we have many that enjoy participating in research. With their help, we learn more about their species and are then able to share that knowledge with you and the rest of the world!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Aqualift Chair Installed!

DRC recently installed a second “aqualift” chair. This special equipment is used to assist guests with special needs in and out of the water. The guest sits in the chair and is slowly, safely, lowered into the dolphins’ lagoon. This is a big help for guests who use wheelchairs, or who have any physical challenge that makes it difficult for them to negotiate up and down steps, sit on a floating dock or slide into the water.

We’ve had a similar chair in the front lagoon for many years. A second one installed at another lagoon provides more scheduling flexibility and helps us expand the assistance we offer to anyone with special needs that would like to interact in the water with the dolphins.

Dolphin Research Center is happy to assist guests with special needs at no additional charge to the cost of the program. Simply make sure that you tell us in advance when you call to make a reservation in Dolphin Encounter or Dolphin Dip.

A generous member donated the funds to purchase the new Aqualift chair. Many thanks for your support!

Click here to visit our website and learn more about our Special Needs programs!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The DRC Family

Check out the DRC family pod on YouTube!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why We Do Research

Talon correctly chooses the board with fewer dots in our "Less" research study.

We’re frequently asked why we do research. What’s the point? There are lots of different reasons. Some of our research is observational. By studying our resident pod, we learn things about their general behavior, their physiology, their development. Sharing this knowledge with other scientists is helpful. For example, we’re often lucky enough to be present when a new calf is born. We videotape and photograph that baby from birth, and track its progress with additional video and pictures for the first few months of its life.

When born, the calves have fetal bands that look like stripes of lighter gray skin around their bodies. The fetal bands are formed when the baby is still scrunched up in its mom’s uterus. Over time, those fetal bands fade – and we keep track of that timing. If a researcher in the wild spots a dolphin calf, he can refer to the data we’ve collected and, possibly, estimate the age of the baby according to the color of the fetal bands.

Dolphins in the open oceans have been observed behaving in ways that appeared to indicate that they understood something about numbers and quantity. However, until we did our study on Understanding of the Concept of Numerically “Less”, nobody could say for sure if dolphins could actually grasp numbers concepts. Now we know that they can!

Each research study contributes to the global understanding of these amazing animals, which brings us to another important reason for asking, and answering, research questions. We believe that people care more about animals when they perceive them to be intelligent. The more the people of the world care about dolphins and other marine life, the more likely they are to protect them and the ocean environment.

That alone is reason enough!
For more information about Dolphin Research Center's current and past research, visit our website at

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

DRC Helps Rescue Baby Manatee!

DRC Medical Director Pat Clough assesses the baby manatee on scene after the rescue.

This little girl is believed to be only a few weeks old.

Personnel from Dolphin Research Center’s (DRC) Manatee Rescue Team joined with staff from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Miami Seaquarium (MSQ) to rescue a baby female manatee on Sunday, June 15th. Residents in the bayside area of mile marker 101 in Key Largo had observed the small animal on its own for several days and reported it to the FWC. After locating the calf in a canal, rescuers stretched a net from land and divers picked up the animal and carried it on shore.

DRC’s Medical Director Pat Clough performed an initial assessment of the calf. It was weighed on scene and determined to be only 65 pounds and in need of nutrition and fluids. After the assessment, the manatee was transported to Miami Seaquarium for long term care. “We don’t know how long the baby has been on her own, or what happened to the mother, but she was emaciated and dehydrated,” stated Clough. “Hopefully, with regular nutrition and the excellent around-the-clock care she’ll receive at Miami Seaquarium, she’ll gain weight and be fine.”
The calf underwent additional tests and assessment by Seaquarium veterinarians. They report that she adapted smoothly to being fed by bottle. Seaquarium staff will continue to monitor her condition and provide constant care.
To learn more about manatees, visit the Marine Education section of our website or click here to read facts about manatees.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iguana Action and the Dolphins

In addition to our dolphin and sea lion family, a variety of other animals consider DRC home. Cats, tropical birds, peafowl, and chickens roam the grounds, as do a number of iguanas. It’s not uncommon to see the reptiles crawling around on rocks, in mangrove bushes, or walking down the boardwalks – even in the sea lion habitat. Sometimes, they realize that the shortest distance between where they are and where they want to go is across one of the dolphin lagoons. The iguanas plunge in and start swimming, trying to reach the other side before the dolphins notice.

As if. Recently, we spotted Ras and Jax circling around an iguana while it swam. This might have been the first time Jax ever saw one of these strange-looking creatures, so his curiosity is understandable.

Trainer Jenn asked Santini to jump over one of the iguanas. Tina’s accustomed to jumping over her sisters, but this was a first. Up to the challenge, she executed a super long dive while the iguana continued to swim.

Pandora’s known for treating other animals like toys – such as baby nurse sharks. She’ll tuck them under her flippers or surf around with them on her stomach. When it comes to iguanas, however, she decided not to retrieve one as a playmate. Instead, like Aunt Santini, Pandora jumped over the lagoon visitor.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Plastic and the Marine Environment

Plastic is extremely damaging to the marine environment because it is not biodegradable. Plastic causes problems for marine animals that get entangled. Plastic particles, although they cannot be seen by the naked eye, become absorbed by plankton, and enter into the base of the marine food chain. When larger animals, such as dolphins, eat smaller animals such as fish, they accumulate larger amounts of plastics in their bodies. This can cause serious health problems and even death.

Facts about Plastic Bags:
· The common plastic bag is made of polyethylene
· Polyethylene bags take 1000 years to break down but stay in the environment forever
· 4 to 5 TRILLION plastics bags are manufactured each year
· Americans use over 380 billion plastics bags a year, but recycle only 1%
· Production of 100 million plastic bags uses 12 million barrels of oil
· 100,000 marine mammals die yearly by eating plastic bags that are mistaken as food
· Approximately 1 billion animals die every year from ingesting plastic bags

What can we do?
· Stop using plastic bags. They are not necessary!
· Re-usable bags are available at most grocery stores or online
· Many supermarkets now sell re-usable bags for very low costs
· If you use plastic bags- RECYCLE them at the grocery store
· Support campaigns to minimize the use of plastic bags

This tidbit was brought to you by the DRC Conservation Committee.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Best Buddies - Kibby and Delphi

Whether playing with toys or being his charming self, Delphi always gets our attention.

Kibby loves to practice behaviors in between sessions.

Practice makes perfect – or so Kibby might have thought. Recently in between sessions, Kibby practiced his vertical spin behavior for several minutes. Visitors and staff couldn’t help laughing to see Kib spinning around in the middle of his lagoon.

A few minutes later, Delphi demonstrated more of his cute charm. While Research intern Elise stood on the boardwalk doing observations, Delphi did his best to get her attention. He swam up and stared at her with a big, wide-open dolphin grin, then followed it up with his patented “giggle” sound. To top it all off, Delphi turned onto his back and gave Elise, and himself, a round of “applause”. Too cute!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

FAQ: How Long Do Dolphins Live?

Theresa moved to DRC in 1968,
after spending several years in the U.S. Navy.
She's a charming, mature lady dolphin
who is the mother of Santini and
the grandmom of Tanner & Ras.

We’re frequently asked, “How long do dolphins live?” Well, obviously, they can live to great ages – like Theresa who is in her early 50s, or Delphi and Molly who are believed to be in their early 40s.

Even knowing this about these particular dolphins, we like to present accurate data to answer this important question.

Dolphin Research Center is an accredited member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. A couple of years ago, the Alliance conducted a study with its North American members and their resident dolphins. From that project, we now know some specifics.

Current scientific data show that bottlenose dolphins in Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums member facilities live longer than their counterparts in the wild.

On average, a one-year old bottlenose dolphin in Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums member facilities is expected to live for more than 25 years

The median life expectancy of a one-year-old bottlenose dolphin in Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums member facilities is 24.3 years.

For more information about the Alliance, visit our website and click on the Alliance logo on the homepage!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Jax Joins the Front Lagoon!

Jax loves jumping and diving in the lagoons.
Now healed, his dorsal fin shows the results of the
possible shark attack that injured him when
he was about 6-8 months old in the St. John's River.

DRC’s newest family member, Jax, has joined Santini, Ras, Theresa, Tursi and Gypsi in the front lagoon. Jax is a juvenile male who was rescued over a year ago from the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, FL. He was severely injured – probably by a shark attack or run-in with a boat – and found swimming all by himself for quite some time. After the federal government decided he needed to be rescued, he spent several months at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City, FL, before joining the DRC family in January.

We wanted to make his transition smooth, happy, and as stress-free as possible. Jax lived in our medical pool for a few weeks so he could get to know us and so his body could gradually make the transition from pool water to Gulf of Mexico water. He then moved into one of the lagoons where he could check out dolphin pod members in neighboring pools.

We thought that Tursi, who is definitely an ├╝ber-mom, might be just the adult, maternal role model that Jax needed. Tursi’s daughter, Gypsi, now over a year old, is close enough in age to Jax to be a good playmate. So, first we put these three together in a separate lagoon. It didn’t take long for them to become acquainted and begin swimming around. In a matter of days, Tursi grew comfortable enough to let Gypsi and Jax play – under her supervision, of course.

After a few weeks, we decided to introduce Jax to more members of his DRC dolphin pod. At his age, estimated to be around two years, he would still be living with his mother and a maternity pod out in the open oceans. It made sense to us to put him with a similar social group. For a few days, the “new kid on the block” hung out by the fence while everybody observed each other. Jax’s trainers played with him and gradually coaxed him over to play at various docks with other dolphins. It didn’t take long for him to get the “lay of the lagoon”. Now he ventures out to join the other youngsters, Gypsi and Ras, for free spirited play. He continues to participate in sessions with his trainers and shows definite interest in all the other activity that takes place in the front lagoon.

It’s obvious that mature ladies and kids alike have definitely accepted Jax as a member of the DRC family!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

DolphinCamp and DolphinLab Spots Still Open!

Whether you’re thinking about a career with marine mammals, or you simply love dolphins and want to learn more about them while having fun, you’re an excellent candidate for DolphinLab.

Here’s what a few of our previous students, parents and teachers said about their experience . . .

“I was blown away by this program. I learned more than I thought possible and am so excited to come back and learn even more.”
"DolphinLab far exceeded my expectations both for enjoyment factor and learning/education. I've learned more in one week than one year at college."
“The lab reinforced my current career goals, but also opened my eyes to a whole slew of different careers having to do with dolphins.”
“…another great week of DolphinLab for my daughter….I believe DRC has helped her decide that working to save the environment and wildlife is what she wants to devote her life to.”

“I have had the pleasure of bringing my students to…DolphinLab since 1986. The quality of the…experience has been outstanding on all occasions.”

There are still spots available in all of our Dolphin Camp courses for ages 10-12 or 13-14. For adults ages 18 and older, we have courses open in All About Dolphins as well as the Career Focused Series classes.

Remember, you can now earn college credit for all of our adult courses!

For students ages 15-17, unfortunately our Teen Basic Courses are already full, so please plan ahead for next year! If you’ve previously taken Teen Basic, and would like to return for the Intermediate or Advanced Teen Course, openings are still available.

Click here to go to the DolphinLab area of our website for more information or email the Education Department at

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Game On!

Merina was ready to join in for some ring-toss fun!

What’s a holiday weekend without some good outdoor games? On Memorial Day, the group of dolphins in the front lagoon, led by Santini, engaged in a game of ring toss with Merina, Pandora and Cayo who are living in the lagoons next door. While trainers watched, someone in the front flung a toy ring across the fence. One of the girls in the next lagoon grabbed the toy and tossed it back. Then someone else from the front retrieved and threw it again. The game went on for quite awhile. Both teams were declared winners!
If you aren't familiar with the dolphins of DRC, click here to Meet the Pod!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Adorable Meet

Emily, one of our research trainers, recently had a number of young children join her, Tanner and AJ for a Meet the Dolphin program. One three year old girl was too scared to do the flippershake. After the other children did the behavior, Emily talked more to the little girl and the conversation was precious.

“I’ve known these guys for awhile,” Emily said. “They’re really cool.”

“You know ‘dem?” the youngster asked?

Emily nodded. The girl’s mother really wanted her to do the behavior and offered to sit with her on the edge of the dock while she met the dolphins.

“No, Mommy. You don’t know dem,” the little girl said, and then pointed at Emily. “She knows dem.”

Braver now that she was with a real friend of Tanner and AJ’s, the child sat with Emily and shook flippers with our handsome, gentle guys.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Splashing into the Blogosphere!

Welcome to Dolphin Research Center's new web journal. This is an exciting new venture for us and we hope that it will be exciting for you, too.

Now celebrating our 24th year, Dolphin Research Center is a nonprofit marine mammal education and research facility, located in the heart of the Florida Keys. Twenty Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (including three adorable one-year-olds) and a California sea lion call DRC home. Our mission is to promote peaceful coexistence, cooperation and communication between marine mammals, humans and the environment we share through research and education and to operate for the advancement of research and education. The health and well being of DRC’s dolphins holds absolute precedence over all other interests. DRC will undertake no program or activity that compromises this basic commitment.

In future blogs, we'll share stories from around our lagoons about the wonderful animals in the family pod, our various activities, and some of the amazing and fun things that happen when people just like you come and visit. Animal care and training, cognitive and behavioral research, special needs programs, educational activities and more will all be part of the blog. We hope you'll enjoy reading. In the meantime, to learn more about DRC and the dolphins and sea lions, please visit our website!