Thursday, December 31, 2009

Are You Ready for some Football?

Both the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl will be played in Miami in 2010. Down here at Dolphin Research Center, the dolphins are always up for a game. Check out our dolphins in action!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Keys Traditional Music Festival to Benefit DRC!

Some of America's most celebrated grassroots musical masters will be featured at the first annual Florida Keys Traditional Music Festival, January 29-31, 2010, at Sombrero Resort in Marathon! All proceeds will benefit the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) AND Dolphin Research Center!

The diverse, exciting lineup of performers includes master Cajun, bluegrass, country, boogie-woogie-blues and weatern swing performers. The festival will give audiences a chance to experience the artistry of this unique group of stellar musicians performing great American music in an intimate setting.
There are four concerts over the weekend: Friday, Jan 29, from 6 pm to 9 pm; Saturday, Jan 30, from 1 pm to 5 pm and then 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm; and on Sunday, Jan 31, from 1 pm to 5 pm.
Tickets for individual concerts are $15.00. The four-concert package is $50.00. (Children under 12 are free.)
For a complete list of performers and to purchase tickets visit the official website at
Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays from Dolphin Research Center

From our family to yours . . .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking for a Great Dolphin Gift?

No, you can’t actually wrap up Kibby or another dolphin to put under your tree. (We tried. Believe it or not, this picture wasn’t Photoshopped. Kibby actually posed with a box on top of him) However, there’s still time to select a wonderful gift from Dolphin Research Center for any dolphin lover on your list.
You might consider giving a DRC membership, such as Adopt-a-Dolphin or Pod Pal. Each membership includes free admission all year to DRC, our bi-monthly Dolphin Society newsletter and other great perks. Your gift will help support the DRC mission, the care of our dolphins and sea lions, and our manatee rescue efforts. Visit the Membership area of our website for more information or to arrange for a gift membership online. (Electronic membership acknowledgements can be sent next business day. Other memberships must be received by December 18th so we can mail them for delivery before Christmas.)
Cyber-shopping is another popular option and we offer a wide variety of great gift ideas through the online Gift Shop. Jewelry, books, apparel, calendars, and other wonderful items will suit any budget or wish. Check out the Gift Shop today!
Happy Holidays to all.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Aleta's Baby's First Moments

We know that most of you could not be here at DRC for the baby's birth. We're delighted that we can now share it with you via video.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Aleta's Baby Arrives!

Dolphin Research Center is delighted to announce the birth of Aleta's calf! The little one arrived this afternoon at 2:22 pm to the cheers and applause of staff, volunteers and visitors.
From the moment of birth, dolphin calves are always swimming. Aleta went right into "mommy-mode", expertly guiding the baby around the lagoon. When dolphins are born, they need that guidance. They can swim right away, but their steering ability needs some work!
Their dorsal fins, which provide stability in the water, are floppy when the babies are born and usually straighten in a few hours. You can see in this photograph, which was taken soon after the birth, that the dorsal isn't straight.
Periodically, Aleta also "surfed" her newborn on her chest.
Aunt Santini, who acted as Aleta's midwife, split her time between swimming with Aleta, with the baby in the middle, and entertaining the onlookers by breaching, diving, and giggling.
Soon after the baby's tail flukes appeared and everyone gathered around the lagoon, someone noticed that we weren't the only beings in the vicinity. Out in the Gulf, a pod of wild dolphins appeared and swam in the area for quite some time. One staff member remarked that, perhaps, the baby's father Kibby sent a text message.
We don't know the baby's gender and might not for quite some time. The little one won't receive a name until we know whether it's a boy or girl. It's also too soon to decide whether she looks more like her mother or her father.
Coincidentally, the newest member of the DRC family shared its birth day with its older half-sister and cousin Pandora. (Pandora's parents are Kibby and Merina, who is Aleta's half-sister.)
It's a happy day for sure!

Monday, November 16, 2009

2010 DRC Calendar Available

Keeping track of your appointments and activities has never been so beautiful. The 2010 Dolphin Research Center Calendar is now available through our online gift shop.

The cover features an underwater picture of Jax, the handsome boy who came to live with us in January 2008. Inside, each month features a beautiful photograph of dolphins and sea lions in the DRC family pod.

Now when you can't be with your gray-faced and furry brown friends in person, you can still look at them every day.

Click here to purchase yours online.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tanner represents everyone at DRC in thanking our nation's
military and veterans. His grandmother, Theresa, served in the U.S. Navy.

To salute the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, Dolphin Research Center (DRC) is offering free admission to veterans and current military service personnel and a guest on Veteran’s Day, November 11th. Personnel only need to show their military identification cards or other proof of military service when they arrive at the facility. Dolphin Research Center offers fun-filled, educational narrated demonstrations throughout the day and a variety of exciting interactive programs that bring you up close to their family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. The nonprofit facility is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at mile marker 59 on Grassy Key in the heart of the Florida Keys. For more information, call 305-289-1121, or visit DRC's website at
Throughout the year, the center offers a military discount of $3.00 off the regular adult admission. This discount is available to all military personnel and veterans. The center's oldest dolphin is herself a veteran. Theresa, believed to be in her early-to-mid-50s, spent time in the United States Navy's dolphin research program. Several staff members also served in the armed forces, including Chief Operating Officer Mandy Rodriguez who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. On the facility's grounds, there is a special garden area dedicated to veterans of all wars. This garden was installed by a group of veterans who participated in a dolphin assisted therapy program. It was rededicated in August with a special ceremony.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Pandora and all of us at DRC hope you have a "spooktacular" Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dolphin Research Center's Object Permanence Study

DRC's latest research study on What do dolphins understand about hidden objects? was recently published by the prestigious journal Animal Cognition. If you've visited Dolphin Research Center anytime in the last few years, chances are you saw this project in action. We've also produced a video that explains the study and what we found out about the dolphins in the process.

Check it out!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holiday Photo Ops Return!

Warm sun, sparkling oceans and stately palm trees might not have the Florida Keys in the holiday spirit yet, but Dolphin Research Center (DRC) is giving guests a head start on their holiday photos. From now until December 22nd, when you participate in DRC’s Meet the Dolphin program, you can also pose with the dolphins for a holiday photo. We'll even have some props such as Santa hats, reindeer antlers, and holiday wreaths to use while posing.

DRC’s experienced photographers will shoot the pictures using high-resolution digital cameras.

Meet the Dolphin gives guests the opportunity to go onto the floating dock to give backrubs and share a “flippershake” with a dolphin. The program is offered several times each day on a walk-in basis and costs $25 per person in addition to general admission prices. The photos can be supplied on CD for $25 (including all members of the family), or as prints. Print prices vary depending on number ordered.

It's fun for you and the dolphins, and you'll have a holiday photo you'll always remember!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Great Dolphin Items Available at Online Auction!

This gold and larimar pendant and beautiful crystal statue are just two of the items available!

Our Founders’ Weekend is coming up November 14th and 15th and the highlight of Saturday dinner has always been the auction. At prior events we’ve always had many people who were not able to attend the dinner but wanted to participate in bidding on some of the wonderful donated items. This year we’re giving everyone a chance to bid by sponsoring an online auction on our website. It’s NOW online and available for you to view and bid!

To bid on items such as crystal dolphins, works of art, and jewelry, all you need to do is click here or type in your browser to go directly to our online auction site. All proceeds from this auction go to supporting DRC’s mission and the dolphins and sea lions in our care. Good luck and have fun bidding on your favorite item!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Merina Does Her Part for the Environment!

Recently, a staff member, Kris, walked by the front lagoon and stopped to speak with a family of visitors. The guests were completely enamored with the beautiful lady dolphins and little Jax. They asked the staff how we tell the dolphins apart and wanted to know the names of each dolphin.

As the Kris pointed out Ras and Gypsi, she noticed a piece of plastic floating in the water. (From time to time, unfortunately, things drift into the lagoons from the water outside the fences.) Excusing herself from the family, she noticed that all of the dolphins followed her towards the middle dock. She grabbed a target pole and tried to get the floating debris, but no luck! It was just out of reach. The next thing she knew, Merina came to the rescue. She swam up under the plastic, grabbed it in her mouth and swam over to the dock.

After Kris took the plastic, she gave Merina a little pat on the melon and told her she was awesome. The visiting family applauded! Merina gave a little jump and vocalized a small scream as if proud of herself for saving the day and doing what she good to protect the environment. She sure gave the visitors and Kris something to remember for a long time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

DRC's Latest Research Study Published!

In the top picture, Administrative Director of Research Emily Guarino demonstrates how we asked the dolphins to choose which container held the alligator. In the second photo, she shows Tanner that he got the answer correct!

Research Explores Dolphins Understanding of Hidden Objects

Grassy Key… When you watch someone put chocolate into a cabinet, you know where to find the treat, even when you can’t see it. If a person shows you a gold coin in their hand, reaches into their pocket, and then, when they remove their hand, they are no longer holding the coin, you’ll have no problem figuring out where that gold must be. This ability to reason about things that have disappeared from view is known as object permanence. It has been studied in many land animals, and now Dolphin Research Center (DRC), located in Grassy Key, FL, is the first to explore this ability with marine mammals. Dolphin Research Center’s research paper on What Do Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Understand About Hidden Objects was recently published by the prestigious scientific journal Animal Cognition.

“When you show an object to a human infant who’s only a few months old and then hide it, as far as the baby is concerned, it's as though the object ceases to exist. They won't look for it,” explains Research Director Dr. Kelly Jaakkola. “By the time humans are around 12 months old, they seem to realize that the object still exists and search for it even if they can’t see it.”
For this study, DRC’s researchers hid an object -- a plush toy alligator -- in one of three containers while the dolphins watched. They then asked the animals to choose the container holding the alligator. The dolphins chose correctly with a high rate of accuracy.

Several other non-human species have demonstrated this ability -- which scientists call "visible displacement" -- including gorillas, chimpanzees, parrots and dogs. DRC next explored a harder condition called “invisible displacement”. This time, they showed dolphins the plush alligator being hidden in a cylinder. They then placed the cylinder in one of three containers and emptied the alligator into the container where the dolphin could not see this action take place. They showed the dolphin the empty cylinder, and again asked it to choose the container holding the alligator.

Chief Operating Officer/Co-Founder Mandy Rodriguez places the alligator in a cylinder while Pax watches.

Apes are the only animals besides humans that demonstrate they can solve these kinds of trials. Since apes, humans and dolphins share other specific cognitive skills – including mirror self-recognition, ability to imitate and to understand symbols– DRC’s scientists fully expected that dolphins would also succeed with invisible displacement. Surprisingly, they didn’t.

“The reasons why remain unknown,” Jaakkola said. “There are many possibilities. They might lack an understanding of containment, since containers as we understand them do not exist in the sea. Also, in their underwater world, dolphins use echolocation, which is their natural sonar. If a fish disappears beneath the sand, for example, dolphins can echolocate and still perceive exactly where the fish is located. Perhaps they just don’t need this ability in the first place. Further research could address this puzzle.”

Even though the dolphins did not demonstrate the ability they expected, DRC’s research team is anything but disappointed. “Our studies are helping to build a more complete picture of dolphin cognition,” Jaakkola adds. “To do that, it’s just as important and fascinating to figure out what they can’t do as well as what they can, so that we can really begin to understand how they think and learn.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DRC Welcomes Soldiers; Rededicates Veterans Garden

Enjoying a Dolphin Encounter at Dolphin Research Center with Merina are (l-r) Damon Ziegler, United States Marine Corps; Michael Fradera, United States Army; and Adam McCann, United States Marine Corps.

If smiles are any indication of a program’s success, then the recent visit to Dolphin Research Center (DRC) by participants from the Wounded Warrior Project and the Disabled American Veterans was a triumph. On Friday, August 14th, DRC treated 13 soldiers, all of whom are recovering from serious war-related injuries, and 8 Vietnam veterans to a special experience in the water with the dolphins. The men and their new dolphin friends swam, splashed, and played together in the Dolphin Encounter program, and constant smiles were seen everywhere.

After the dolphin swim, the men enjoyed a pizza lunch, donated by Papa John’s of Marathon. DRC’s Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder Mandy Rodriguez served in the U.S. Marine Corps, seeing active duty in Vietnam. “It was an honor to welcome these men to Dolphin Research Center. All soldiers face challenges when they return home, regardless of whether they are injured. We’re delighted that spending time with the dolphins provided a welcome break from those challenges,” Mandy says.

After lunch, the soldiers joined DRC staff and other visitors for the formal rededication of our Veterans Garden. Ten years ago, military veterans participated in a special group program at Dolphin Research Center. As part of their experience, they built a lush, tropical garden area that the center then dedicated to veterans of all wars.

Since then, the garden has persevered through storms and other challenges, and over the last year has been replenished with new plantings, paved walkways and other additions. On Friday, August 14th, DRC rededicated the Veterans Garden in a moving ceremony attended by the Key West Navy Color Guard, soldiers from the Wounded Warrior Project and Disabled American Veterans, center staff and visitors.
A few months ago, Specialist William Carroll of the New Jersey Army National Guard Reserves returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq. He visited DRC and presented the center with a United States flag that flew over Baghdad along with a Certificate of Patriotism from the Special Operations Task Force-Central of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. At the garden rededication, personnel from the US Navy Color Guard performed a refolding ceremony with the flag

Mandy explained, “This garden is a peaceful oasis at DRC, and a place to remember and honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s solders in every branch of the military. We are honored to receive this flag and certificate.”

U.S. Navy personnel from Key West refold a United States flag that was presented to Dolphin Research Center with a Certificate of Patriotism from the Special Operations Task Force-Central of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Observing the ceremony are (pictured r-l) DRC’s Chief Operating Officer Mandy Rodriguez, and staff members Adam Keaton, Thomas Darapiza, and Stuart Strickland.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kibby Goes Fishing

Guests frequently ask us if the dolphins ever eat the fish that swim in their lagoons. We know they’re certainly able to catch the snapper. Kibby recently demonstrated this when we spotted him swimming around with a large mangrove snapper in his mouth. Although the dolphins swallow their food whole and a one pound herring is no problem, this snapper measured over 20 inches long!
Kibby looked mighty proud of his catch, but he was also quite happy to exchange for one of those tasty herring.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Simply Pandora-ble!

When they see Pandora smile, guests can't help smiling back!
Leave it to Pandora to create an experience that entertains not only her, but everybody around. During a recent Dolphin Encounter, when she gave a young girl a flippershake, the guest started to giggle. Pandora didn’t miss a beat before she began giggling, too. This tickled everyone’s funny bones and all of the other Encounter participants began to laugh. There were big smiles everywhere that afternoon!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Help Convince Animal Planet!

As you all know, Dolphin Research Center is featured in a spectacular new documentary series called Dolphin Days. It is already airing in the United Kingdom and Italy, and is slated to premier in the coming months in Singapore and throughout Europe and we’re receiving wonderful viewer reaction. However, Animal Planet in the United States has not yet acquired the series and we don’t have any assurances that they will do so.

We think it can’t hurt to let them know that there are thousands of people in the U.S. who want to see Dolphin Days and would be glued to Animal Planet if they air the show. If you’d like to join the effort to bring Dolphin Days to a television near you, please email or write to Animal Planet and let them know how you feel.

To email them directly, go to the Viewer Relations page of the Discovery (Animal Planet’s parent company) website. To access that page directly, go to

Once you are on the page, please fill in information in the required fields. When asked to select a network, choose “Animal Planet”. When asked for the Program/Show, scroll down the list and select “Other”. For the Last Watched field, pick “Unknown”. On the next page, select “Primetime” and “General Comment or Question”. You will then be able to leave a comment in the box provided. (When you’re actually doing the steps, it isn’t complicated.)

To send a letter, please write to: Discovery Communications, Viewer Relations, One Discover Place, 5th Floor, Silver Spring, MD, 20910.

Thank you in advance!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Manatees Visit DRC!

These manatees were definitely on the move going from one side of DRC to the other!

Executive VP Mandy Rodriguez observes the manatees in action. You can see by the manatee's tail paddle that he must have had a run-in with a boat at some time in his life.

Love was definitely in the air, or at least in the water, recently when a group of manatees visited DRC. At this time of year, mating herds are common and three or four males were in hot pursuit of a lovely female. Possibly tired of the relentless attention, she swam under the buoy line on the west side of DRC and headed for the shoreline. The males obviously followed.
The dolphins in the front lagoon were about to do a session when the manatees arrived on the other side of the fence. Picture a group of large manatee bodies rolling around together. As you can imagine, this was a huge distraction and the dolphins just had to swim over and take a look.
DRC staff members did our best to get a look, too. When we did, we saw that some of the manatees sported scars and healed gashes that indicated previous injuries – most likely from boat strikes!
At one point, the female manatee pushed against the lagoon fences, possibly looking for someplace where she could get a break from her amorous companions. Concerned that she could hurt herself, we decided it would be safer to coax her to leave. Executive V.P. Mandy Rodriguez, who is also the leader of DRC’s Manatee Rescue Team gently paddled around in a kayak while other team members slowly walked through the water and pulled back the buoy line. Without rushing, or harassing the manatees, the team maintained a presence and, finally, the animals turned around and departed.
A few moments later, we spotted them swimming toward the other side of the facility where they briefly slipped under the buoys and swam along the fences where the big boys live. Perhaps the lady manatee decided that the last thing she needed was more guys around because she turned around almost immediately and, you guessed, returned to the other side of DRC!
Eventually, they must have realized that this was not the ideal courtship spot. The manatees left without assistance and swam off to explore elsewhere in the Keys.
In the meantime, while all of this manatee melee was underway, we looked off the end of the causeway and spotted dorsal fins. Seems like a small pod of dolphins decided to drop by and feed in the waters around DRC.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

So You Think YOU Can Dance?

Kilo boogies on the dock.

When it comes to shaking his groove thang, Kilo’s a dancing star. He already does his regular style, where he alternates picking up his front flippers. Now he’s adding more cool moves. Kilo lies down and spins around in his version of a sea lion break dance. He boogies by keeping his front flippers on the boardwalk but wiggling his hind quarters. (Very cute!) Now he’s also learning a cool sway, rhythmically swinging his long neck and head from side to side.
We think the television judges would give him a perfect 10!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

See a Clip From Dolphin Days!

Sky Entertainment has a clip from the first episode of Dolphin Days up on the Internet. Here's the link to watch!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dolphin Days in Italy!

For all of our friends and members who live in Italy, we just received word that Dolphin Days will begin airing in your country this Thursday, June 4th at 11 pm. Check your local Animal Planet listings in Italy because often an episode airs more than once.

We hope you enjoy Dolphin Days.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Dolphin Days Premiers June 1st in the U.K.

Just a quick reminder to all of our friends in the United Kingdom. Tune into Animal Planet on Monday, June 1st, 7:30 pm for the first episode of Dolphin Days! This fantastic 8-episode series focuses on Dolphin Research Center's family pod and all of our activities, as well as on spotted dolphins that have been studied for 25 years in the Bahamas.

If you love dolphins and DRC, you definitely don't want to miss Dolphin Days!

Make sure to let us know if you watch it and what you think!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We Can't Get Enough of Molly and her Scarves!

Recently some DRC members brought two new scarves to Molly. We all know how she loves to swim around with them, and keeps her stash hidden in her lagoon. At the end of the session, the trainer asked Molly to find a present for her guests. She swam off and then returned wearing a scarf on each pectoral flipper and one draped across her rostrum! Two of her three accessories were the very ones that she’d just received! It’s like Miss Molly had to show her appreciation and model the newly acquired attire!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Peacock Meets Thor

A peacock surveys DRC, perched right next to our lightning detection/alert system.

In addition to dolphins and sea lions, various other animal species call DRC home. Tropical birds greet guests from their aviary while cats, iguanas, chickens and peafowl roam the grounds, frequently getting their pictures taken. Recently on a stormy morning one of the peacocks ventured up to the roof of one of our buildings, perhaps to get a true “bird’s eye view”. He probably didn’t realize that he perched right next to DRC’s lightning detection system, known as Thor. When storms travel into our area, the system detects when lightning strikes are close and emits an extremely loud alarm. For the safety of our guests and staff, we then temporarily halt our programs and go inside buildings.
Staff members report seeing the peacock was already in that position when the alert sounded. Much to our amazement, the ear-piercing alarm didn’t faze the bird! He remained up there for at least 45 minutes afterward! Perhaps we need to check his hearing??

Thursday, May 14, 2009

We're on Facebook!

Dolphin Research Center has officially joined the Facebook nation! Join our fan page today. To find us, search Facebook for Dolphin Research Center. You might see different groups pop up. Several volunteers, interns or DolphinLab students created this to keep in touch with each other and other people who have spent time at DRC.

The official DRC page shows the above picture in its profile and is listed as non-profit type. Join up as a fan and share the information with your friends.

If you have any questions or aren't sure which Facebook page to join, let us know in comments and we'll do our best to help!

See you on Facebook!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Countdown to Dolphin Days!

DRC President Jayne Shannon Rodriguez (seated, left) and VP of Animal Care & Training Linda Erb discuss the DRC dolphins for Dolphin Days, produced by Athena Films, Ltd.

For all of you who live in the United Kingdom, we have exciting news! Dolphin Days, the fantastic new documentary series that focuses on Dolphin Research Center in every episode, is scheduled to begin airing in the U.K. on June 1st on Animal Planet!
Each episode provides an in depth look at the dolphins in the DRC family pod, the people who care for them, and the mission we achieve together. The show also takes you to the Bahamas to learn more about spotted dolphins that have been studied by Dr. Denise Herzing for over 25 years.
We've seen the first cuts and are excited that it is truly a wonderful series. We can't wait for you to see it, too. Right now, the only air dates we know are for the United Kingdom. We expect to learn dates for other parts of Europe, Asia, the Pacific Rim, etc. as time goes on.
Unfortunately, the United States has not yet aquired the series to air, but we're keeping our flippers crossed.
We hope you'll enjoy Dolphin Days. Please let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Making of the Don't Feed Wild Dolphins PSA

Hi, Everybody,

Some time ago, we showed you the fantastic, animated PSA that urges people not to feed wild dolphins. Dolphin Research Center was heavily involved in the teamwork that brought this PSA into being. Tinsley Advertising, the agency that created the PSA, put together an interesting, fun "Making of" video. It includes a fascinating look at the animation process and also shows how our own Merina assisted the animation specialists.

Here it is!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dolphin Enrichment

Sandy eyes the visitors while strutting his way around the lagoon.

Visitors come to DRC expecting the dolphins to entertain – and the dolphins never disappoint! Did you know that you are also entertainment for the dolphins? Every session with their trainers, new behavior they learn, or interactive program they participate in is part of their daily enrichment. It keeps the days fun, interesting, and challenging.
When a dolphin shows off a high dive or flip, or holds still to practice an important medical behavior and you respond with applause or cheers, you’re helping the dolphin know that he or she did a great job. Your response is positive reinforcement.
In between sessions when you hang out around the lagoons talking to or waving at the dolphins, you are also contributing enrichment to their lives. As you can see from their response, when they “scream” or wave back, they love it when you visit.
Thanks for being part of our dolphins’ days!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don't Feed Wild Dolphins - PSA Launches!

For the last few years, Dolphin Research Center has worked with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and several other government agencies and private organizations on a public service announcement alerting the public to the dangers that wild dolphins face when people feed them. We are thrilled to announce that the PSA has now launched and we are eager to help spread the word.

The PSA reminds viewers that feeding wild dolphins is not only illegal, it is harmful to dolphins, even causing some to rely on begging for food from humans, upsetting their natural role as hunters and altering their diets. Feeding wild dolphins is a threat to humans, too. Dolphins sometimes become aggressive when seeking food and are known to bite when teased.

“Feeding wild dolphins triggers a domino effect of harmful behaviors as dolphins learn to associate people with food and free handouts,” said Stacey Horstman, bottlenose dolphin conservation coordinator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “We are at a point where we honestly need to change our behavior so we don’t change theirs, and we hope this PSA provides a compelling plea for the public’s help.”

The health and welfare of wild dolphins is severely compromised when humans feed them. Human-fed dolphins change their normal wild behavior and run a greater risk of being injured by boats, becoming entangled in fishing gear, or ingesting dangerous items such as fishing hooks and contaminated food. Some dolphins have become so accustomed to receiving routine handouts, they are now taking fishing bait and catches from recreational and commercial fishermen. In one recent instance off the Florida panhandle, a bottlenose dolphin distracted by taking fish from a recreational fisherman was attacked and eaten by a large shark.

Many scientists have observed illegal dolphin feeding throughout the southeast, especially since NOAA’s Fisheries Service prohibited feeding of wild marine mammals in 1993 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Wild dolphin experts were also alerted to this problem through routine complaints from concerned citizens viewing the illegal behavior, and most recently through new videos posted to YouTube showing people feeding wild dolphins off Florida and South Carolina.

“Scientists have known for years that dolphin feeding was a problem in certain hotspot areas in the southeast,” said Laura Engleby, NOAA’s Fisheries Service southeast marine mammal branch chief. “But the citizen complaints and self-implicating Internet media has shocked our experts and further validates that feeding is an increasing and more wide-spread problem than we thought.”

Feeding and harassing wild marine mammals is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and can result in severe penalties with fines up to $20,000 and one year in jail for the most serious violations.

The PSA can be viewed at, which also has more information on dolphin conservation and guidelines for viewing dolphins responsibly in the wild.

You can help wild dolphins, too. Please share this information with your friends and family!

Friday, February 20, 2009

DRC Receives Industry Award

Dolphin Research Center is the proud recipient of the Wright Langley Award for 2008. Presented by the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West, the award recognizes DRC for preservation and enhancement of our marine environment and culture of the Florida Keys.

DRC’s VP of Animal Care and Training Linda Erb (pictured left) accepted the award on our behalf from Monroe County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy.

DRC Featured on Keys Voice Blog

There's a great post about DRC's Paint with a Dolphin program over on the Keys Voices blog. Check it out! Here's the link:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Conservation Resolution!

Sometimes environmental problems seem so huge, it’s natural to wonder if there’s anything we, as individuals, can do to help. Most of us already know the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The good news is that there is plenty more that each of us can do, and we can all begin with little changes. These individual things accumulate, all adding up to big success.

One need look no further than the recent rollercoaster gas prices. It was only a couple of months ago that we saw prices go over $4.00 for a single gallon of gas. Nationwide, consumers responded by driving less, consolidating trips, carpooling, and taking other measures to reduce the among of gas they used in their vehicles. Simple economics says that when demand decreases, prices drop. Now prices at the pump are the lowest they’ve been in a few years – under $2.00 a gallon in many cases.

So, what are some other little things each of us can do to help the environment? Here are a few ideas.

Each time a lightbulb burns out, replace it with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL). They cost a little more initially but use less power and last a lot longer. Over time you save energy and money.

Reuse plastic or paper bags. Most stores now sell reusable bags to tote home your groceries. These are great! However, if you do get plastic or paper bags at the supermarket, find a way to reuse them. Plastic bags make great liners for indoor trash receptacles. Stack newspapers in paper bags before you set them out for recycling. Use a plastic bag over and over to take your lunch to work. Some stores even take them back and recycle them, too.

Turn off things that aren’t in use. Do you have video game consoles at home like X-Box or Wii? The National Resources Defense Council conducted a study and discovered that these consoles use nearly the same amount of power when left on and unattended as they do when someone is playing them! Shut them down when you’re finished your game and you’ll save energy.

The same goes with computers, chargers, and a host of other appliances and gadgets around the house. These all draw energy when left on, even if nobody is using them. Unplug the chargers from the wall and you’ll save even more.

Don’t forget the old rule our parents taught us, too. Turn off the light when you leave a room.
There are three easy things that anybody can do. Not so overwhelming after all, when you look at them as small steps!