Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

From the Dolphin Research Center family to yours -
Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays!

Like Mother, Like Daughter

A few weeks ago, Pandora moved back into the front lagoon with her daughter, Luna, and we’ve seen them hang out quite a bit. The two of them, since they are mother and daughter, are identified by pink zinc oxide on their dorsal fins. Pandora has a dot and Luna has a stripe. Luna seems to be becoming more and more like her mother every day.

Pandora is known for her love of target poles. The girl will seriously tuck one under her flipper and carry it around for days! Turns out, Luna has realized the fun in her momma’s game because one day when Pandora wasn’t guarding her precious pole, little Luna managed to sweep in and get it all to herself. When we realized that Luna had swiped her mama’s favorite toy, we couldn’t help but giggle. Half of the time, we can’t get Pandora’s target pole away from her so it’s awesome her little girl could! 

As a fun loving young lady, Luna wasn’t happy just carrying the target pole around like a dolphin accessory. Instead, she had a blast diving deep down into the lagoon with it and then letting it pop back up! Throughout the day, we’d see an object fly out of the water with a sweet little dolphin eagerly after it. Pandora watches but doesn’t dare take away her daughter’s new favorite toy. To make it fair, one of the trainers usually goes onto the dock and throws another one out for Pandora.

Miss Pandora has a very unique dolphinality and it’s great to see her little girl follow in her fluke prints. The two enjoy their time together and also go off on their own with their “friends” in the lagoon. When they decide it’s time for mother and daughter time, Luna and Pandora happily swim along together.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Aleta

Happy Birthday to Aleta, who turns 29 today. This beautiful lady knows she's a star and is never camera shy. Since giving birth to her little girl last month, Aleta has been enjoying the extra attention given to her by our photographers. Aleta is extremely creative and pushes her trainers to do things "the Aleta way". She loves getting to know new people and creating deep, meaningful relationships.

Happy Birthday Aleta. We love you!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Games

For the first several years of a dolphin’s life, they live in a maternity pod where they learn all of their behaviors from their mothers and peers. Whether it’s where to get food or ways to entertain yourself, a lot of what makes a dolphin a dolphin is created at the start of their lives. At Dolphin Research Center, we are able to watch our family members from the first day of birth as they come into their own and create their unique dolphinality. Like humans, some dolphins learn more quickly than others. Some become independent at a very young age while others stick with their mother years longer than the rest of the pod.

Tursi is famous for keeping her calves longer than the other dolphins. Her youngest, Gambit, is currently three years old and still nurses in addition to eating some fish. The two of them do a lot of sessions together and when they are at separate docks, Tursi comes over several times to check in on her little boy. She’s notorious for taking a guest on a dorsal pull to the other side of the lagoon just, to make sure Gambit is being a good little boy.

Since momma Tursi runs the show, we let her decide when she thinks it’s time for Gambit to learn new games and play with new objects. Right now, he is learning to adlib, when we push the coolers back and ask the dolphins to do anything they choose. It’s a great game and shows us what behaviors the dolphins enjoy most. It also allows them to be creative and come up with ideas we never even thought to ask!

The funny part about Gambit learning to adlib is that he repeats everything his mom does. If Tursi waves, Gambit waves. If Tursi does a cartwheel, he does a cartwheel. It’s hilarious to see him copy her.

As Gambit gets a better handle on the concept of adlibbing, he’ll begin to make up his own mind as to what he likes to do. Soon, he’ll be ahead of his mom when we push back the coolers. Until then, we will continue to enjoy whatever he decides.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

DRC Adoption Gifts

Are you running out of time to get a gift for a loved one this holiday season? How about giving them a dolphin or sea lion!  Dolphin Research Center is offering gift adoption E-cards for marine mammal lovers.  You decide the adoption amount, either $50, $100, or $240, and your recipient chooses which of the dolphins or sea lions in the DRC family to adopt. Gift adoptions include a full color certificate and photograph, animal biography, free admission passes with complimentary guest admissions, access to the Members Only Section of the DRC website, 10% Gift Shop discount on most items, and newsletters. In the spirit of the holidays, your marine mammal enthusiast will also receive a photo magnet of their adopted dolphin or sea lion.  Gift adoptions can be made online at the DRC website, www.dolphins.org. 

For more information, call the Membership Department at 305-289-1121, ext. 229.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Happy Birthday Cayo

Happy Birthday to the beautiful Miss Cayo who turns seven today. Cayo is a free spirited dolphin who loves to help out in special needs swims and people watch. You can usually find Cayo, and her best friend Gypsi, along the sea wall by the front lagoon observing guests. Cayo loves to have kisses blown at her and will often blow a kiss back by making a smooching sound.

Happy Birthday Cayo. We love you beautiful!

Thursday, December 12, 2013


The dolphins love to show off different behaviors. A lot of times they add extra oomph to whatever they’re asked to do. This can include Tursi’s signature scream at the height of her aerials or holding an object on a flipper like we often see with Pandora and Calusa. However, there is one behavior that the dolphins have recently shown off that makes us giggle so much that we have to ask them for it over and over again. It’s called a shalligator!

As you know, dolphins are mammals so they move their tail up and down when they swim. To demonstrate the difference between a mammal and a fish we often ask the dolphins to show the crowd a shark behavior. As they swim away from the dock, they move their tail side to side to propel through the water.

The shark behavior is considered an imitation, as is their alligator impression where they chomp their mouths up and down very quickly. Sometimes the trainers get silly on the colder days, and to us anything below 85 is a little chilly, so they use the alligator  behavior to say the dolphins are shivering.

However, thanks to the intelligence of all of the resident dolphins, they’ve been able to show off their shalligator! This behavior is a combination of both the shark and alligator impressions and results in a chomping side to side swimming machine. Santini, the DRC teacher’s pet, was one of the first dolphins to show this off and the rest have caught on.

At DRC, we follow trends and eagerly jump on the dolphin band wagon whenever any of our wonderful family members does something we love. However, the shalligator may be up there with some of the best behaviors. Not only is this a great one to watch, but it’s also super fun to say!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rub Rope

We always try to make the dolphins happier, even in if the way sometimes seems odd. Recently we noticed that a few of the dolphins have itchy backs, so we created a “rub rope” in the front lagoon to help the boys and girls scratch themselves. The rope is actually an old fireman’s hose material, which the dolphins can glide on very easily without leaving any marks or scratches on their skin.

It’s interesting to see how each dolphin interacts with the rub rope. For the first week, all of the dolphins in the front inspected it thoroughly, but did not actually make any moves on it. It seemed they wanted to figure out what exactly it was first. We want the dolphins to understand why we give them objects so instead of just putting the hose in the lagoon and waiting for them to figure it out, one of the trainers, Kelly Jayne, got in the water and demonstrated. .

Envision a dolphin trainer treading water, and rubbing herself up and down a long rope while curious dolphins observe. Yes, it was as hilarious as you’re imagining. Some of the guests, and possibly dolphins, might have thought Kelly Jayne was a little crazy but it was all in good nature and the dolphins got the hint.

Before you knew it, Delta and Louie rubbed themselves all over the rope. Delta likes to scratch the top of his body while Louie enjoys a rub on his peduncle. Other dolphins, like Gypsi, Cayo, Santini, and Reese, were a little shyer and did several drive bys a day to inspect it and watch their buddies.  After a while, Gypsi and Cayo began to use it, too.

The idea of a rub rope, or a trainer shimmying on it to show the dolphins what it’s used for, may seem a little different but that’s what makes it so fun here at DRC! We love to give the dolphins new experiences and do whatever we can to make their lives better.  Not only does it help us learn more about our awesome family members, but we’re also able to share new stories with all of you.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dolphin Wish List

The dolphins got together and decided on some toys they'd like for the holidays!
Check out the New Toy Wish List on our website.
Please include your name so we can tell the dolphins who gave them their wonderful present.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Reese Turns One

Happy Birthday to Reese who turns one year old today! This awesome little dude is extremely independent and loves to play with all the other dolphins in his lagoon. Son of Santini, he's incredibly smart and loves taking part in Dolphin Encounters. His favorite part are the back rubs.

Not only is it his birthday, but it's the first day he becomes adoptable! If you'd like to adopt Reese please check out our website.

Happy Birthday Reese. We love you little guy!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's a Girl!

We are thrilled to announce that both Aleta and Merina's babies are girls!
Congrats to the new momma's.
If you'd like to suggest a name, please do so in the comment section or on Facebook.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Santini

Happy Birthday to the beautiful Santini, who turns 27 today! This amazing lady is known as DRC's "teacher's pet" because of her remarkable intelligence and her drive to do everything perfectly. Tina loves to take part in special needs programs and also in cognitive thinking games. A huge giggler, Santini loves to belly laugh during enrichment sessions. Happy Birthday Santini, we love you!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Flagler Makes A Connection


As we welcome new members to the DRC family, it’s obvious that our little guy Flagler isn’t so little anymore. Although he is larger than most dolphins his age, Flagler is a gentle guy with a heart of gold and filled with lots of curiosity. As he continues to learn new behaviors, we like to cognitively challenge him.

During a session, Flagler’s trainer threw a target pole into the lagoon and asked him to dive with it. This is a behavior that many of the ladies in his lagoon have perfected. Since the target pole queens, Pandora and Calusa, moved into the front Flagler has witnessed them maneuver their way through a variety of behaviors without ever letting the target pole slip through their flippers. Now, it’s Flagler’s opportunity to learn how it’s done.

As the pole hit the water, Flagler’s trainer signaled him to go out for a dive. Instead of jumping with or over the pole, Flagler happily retrieved it and swam back to the dock. Once again it was thrown out and Flagler did the same thing. Since he needed a little help understanding the concept, his trainer sent Gypsi out to model the behavior. As his older friend grabbed the pole and flew through the air with it, we hoped that it clicked in Flagler’s mind.

When Gypsi returned to the dock, the trainer asked Flagler one more time to try to go out with the pole. All of a sudden, he got it! While he was still learning and barely grabbed the pole, he knew what his trainer wanted him to do. It was exciting to see the wheels in his mind turn. Soon, he’ll be able to complete what he’s asked to do all on his own.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tursi's 40th Birthday!

Forty years ago, two Flipper dolphin stunt doubles had an off screen romance and blessed us with the beautiful Tursi. This larger than life lady, affectionately nicknamed Whopper, has seen the facility grow in size, people, and marine mammals .A true happy spirit, she can't help but make sure all eyes are on her by pairing her high energy behaviors with a signature scream. Tursi has a very nurturing spirit and loves to spend time with children, both flippered and human. As a "super mom", Tursi has gifted us with four beautiful children, Talon, Pax, Gypsi, and Gambit. In addition to raising kids, she helps raise new trainers, teaching them who is really in charge: the dolphins! Happy Birthday Tursi. We love you!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy Birthday Pandora and Delta!

There’s even more double delight here at Dolphin Research Center. Pandora and Delta have birthdays! Pandora celebrates her sweet sixteen today while Delta turns four. Both of these amazing dolphins are great at aerial behaviors. Pandora excels at her flying dolphin behavior, where she wiggles her flippers, chirps like a seagull, and leaps through the air. Delta is known for his super duper splashe...s as he breaches high into the sky then flops into the water on his side. When they aren’t showing off, you can usually find Pandora chattering away with the girls and accessorizing herself with a target pole or hula hoop. Delta enjoys rough housing with his buddies and is always the first to explore new items and people in the lagoon. Let’s give these two awesome family members a huge Happy Birthday. We love you Pandora and Delta!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Merina

It's a beautiful day to celebrate Merina's birthday. This lovely lady, and once again new momma, was born at DRC in 1984. With her striking eyes and elegant rostrum, Merina loves when all eyes and cameras are on her. Miss Merina excels at nearly everything she takes on but her leaping kiss with her sister, Aleta, is always a favorite among guests. We are so excited to celebrate this day with the lovely Merina. Happy Birthday Merinabean, we love you!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Flagler

Happy Third Birthday to the amazing Flagler! This not so little boy was Merina's first boy in her lineage of girls. Flagler is a fun dude with lots of spunk and dolphinality. He loves to play seaweed toss and get his partner soaking wet while he attempts to fling the green wad back to the dock. Happy Birthday Flagler. We love you little guy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Merina's New Calf

Today, sometime prior to 7 a.m., Merina gave birth to her beautiful calf!  When the first staff members arrived, mom and baby were swimming around the lagoon.  The little one's dorsal fin was still flopped over its back, which indicated that it wasn't too many hours old. We are thrilled to welcome another beautiful member to the DRC family.

See video of Merina and her calf here:

Friday, November 8, 2013

DRC Closed to the Public

Dolphin Research Center will be closed to the public November 9-10, 2013 for our Founders' Celebration. We will reopen on November 11th.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Aleta's Baby Arrives!

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of Aleta's new baby. The adorable calf was born today at approximately 2:51 p.m. eastern time. Mom and baby doing well!

Here's a video of Aleta's birth:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Help us celebrate Tursi's 40th birthday!

Celebrate Tursi's 40th birthday by taking her on an adventure. If you're a member of Dolphin Research Center, go to the Member's Only section of our website, click on "What's New", download Flat Tursi and show her around your neighborhood. Don't forget to include a birthday message since this wonderful lady celebrates her 40th birthday on November 26th, 2013! We can't wait to hear back from Flat Tursi about all the sights she's sure to see with all of her extended family members.
To get your flippers on Flat Tursi, log into your membership here.

Happy Birthday Gambit!

Today, Gambit turns three years old! Gambit is a very laid back guy, who likes to play with his friends. His new favorite buddy, is 11 month old Reese. The two love to do sessions together and play tag! They are absolutely adorable together.
Happy Birthday Gambit. We love you!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dolphin Research Center Salutes Veterans and Military with Free Admission

Grassy Key, FL -- To salute the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, Dolphin Research Center (DRC) is offering free admission to veterans, current military service personnel and military families on Veterans Day, Monday, 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 behavior demonstrations throughout the day and a variety of exciting interactive programs that bring guests up close to their family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions.  The nonprofit facility is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at mile marker 59 Overseas Highway on Grassy Key.  For more information, call 305-289-1121, or visit www.dolphins.org.

            Dolphin Research Center maintains a strong commitment to the armed forces.  Every day the center offers a military discount of $2.50 off the regular adult admission.  This discount is available to all military personnel and veterans.  Several staff members also served in the armed forces, including Co-Founder/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 originally installed by a group of veterans who participated in a dolphin assisted therapy program.  DRC also works closely with the Wounded Warrior Project throughout the year and was recently honored to receive a Carry Forward Award from the organization.

            Founded in 1984, Dolphin Research Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting peaceful coexistence, cooperation and communication between marine mammals and humans and the environment through research and education.  Located on the Overseas Highway at mile marker 59, Grassy Key, the center is an accredited member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Something Borrowed

Molly is one of the most fashionable dolphins at DRC!
It may surprise some people that adoptive dolphin parents love to send scarves to DRC. Molly, the oldest dolphin that resides at the facility, loves to wear these fun accessories. Long time trainers who have worked with Molly for years tell stories about how she used to steal towels on the dock and carry them on her pectoral flipper or tail flukes. However, as she’s gotten older she’s added a bit of class into her wardrobe and become our resident Fashionista. Every lagoon that she’s lived in has scarves hidden somewhere in a place we affectionately call Molly’s Closet.

Recently, some of the younger dolphins have broken into this lively lady’s wardrobe while she’s rooming in a separate lagoon with Pandora and Calusa. We aren’t sure how they managed to find Molly’s scarves, since our own Animal Care and Habitat staff can’t figure out where she keeps her treasures, but they sure do have a blast playing dress up!

One morning, Flagler and Delta couldn’t help but be absolutely adorable as they showed off the scarf they managed to secure. They swam around the lagoon with it around their flippers and had fun holding it on their rostrums. Unlike Molly though, their favorite activity with the scarf was fetch! They couldn’t wait to bring the colorful garment to the dock and have it thrown back into the lagoon.

The most adorable part of the scarf game was watching Delta and Flagler attempt to handle the accessory. The boys tried to throw it back to the dock like they would a piece of seaweed or a mangrove pod. However, the scarf was heavier and bulkier than their more natural toys and wouldn’t get the air needed for the toss. Instead, it ended up covering their entire face. Then, the two of them seemed perplexed when it submerged whenever they let it go. Flagler constantly brought it back up to the surface, let it go, and watched it sink.

Delta and Flagler had a great time with the scarf, but they’re going to need a few lessons on how to properly maneuver the borrowed accessory from Molly. Until then we’ll have a blast as the boys show us the other lagoon treasures they’re sure to find.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wounded Warrior Project Carry Forward Awards Video

As you may know, Director of Special Needs Joan Mehew and Dolphin Research Center were recently honored by the Wounded Warrior Project with a 2013 Carry Forward Award.  They produced a beautiful video about our involvement with wounded warriors to show at the awards ceremony.

We are proud and honored to share that video with you.

Hard Work at DRC

These adorable sisters love to be entertained!

It is very important to make sure that everything is unpredictable for the dolphins. Trainers work hard to think about new ways to entertain the dolphins. You never know what they’ll be interested in. On a certain day they may absolutely love the Dolphin Entertainment System (DESY) and the next day they’re into something else. As we get to know the dolphins better, we learn their likes and dislikes. Some of them will never come over for an enrichment session while others always enthusiastically show up even if they’re not interested in the activity at hand.

This is definitely true with Pandora and Calusa. These sassy sisters really make their trainers work hard to keep them entertained. Neither is particularly food motivated, so offering fish, gelatin, or ice doesn’t always entice them to stick around on a session. They know that regardless of whether they choose to do what’s on the schedule, they’re going to get all of their food for the day. Pandora and Calusa are dolphins who test even the most experienced trainers.

During a session, Pandora and Calusa decided they really weren’t interested in what their trainers brought down to the dock. There were plenty of fun dolphin toys that we know the girls love but they just weren’t interested. As the girls swam off and instead talked to their friends in the adjacent lagoon and people watched, the staff tried to grab their attention.

A ball was thrown in the lagoon. Frisbees were laid on top of the water to entice them to surf. The trainers splashed water and danced around on the dock. Nothing appealed to the girls. Instead, Pandora watched a dog in the crowd while Calusa swam around in circles.

After twenty minutes, their trainers used a target pole to blow bubbles into the lagoon. This seemed to slightly pique the girls’ attention. They slowly drove by the trainers to eye what was going on. Once it was obvious that the girls were a little interested, one of the trainers began to walk along the boardwalk with the target pole in the water. Calusa quickly turned to follow as it traced the perimeter of the lagoon.

To keep Calusa engaged, the trainer took off racing around the boardwalk. When she got to the edge of the causeway, she turned around and ran back the other way. Soon Pandora began to follow too and the session became a workout for Pandora and Calusa and the trainer!

You never know what the dolphins will find appealing but it’s important to make each session positive and leave the dolphins wanting more. Before Pandora and Calusa had the opportunity to get bored, their trainers stopped the game and left. We want them to know that every session is fun and the good times will continue next time we’re down on the dock.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy Anniversary to Rainbow and Sandy

In 1992, these two handsome boys came to visit from New England Aquarium. Today, they're two of the loudest, energetic and creative members of our dolphin family.

Happy Anniversary Rainbow and Sandy. We love you big boys so much!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Double the Raspberries

They're such goofy boys!

Talon and Pax are two of the big boys that live at Dolphin Research Center. Not only are these magnificent guys best friends, but they’re also brothers! They have a bond with one another that allows them to be silly but yet want to show each other up.

Recently, the boys trainers were having a fun session with them and decided to ask for audience participation. One thing we love to do at DRC is show our guests how great the dolphins are at imitating. We ask the audience to do a certain behavior, then ask the dolphins to copy. Most of the time the dolphins get it right, but every once in a while their minds are elsewhere or they just feel like being silly and they don’t do the right behavior. Since everything we do at DRC is revolved around what the dolphins want to do, if they show us they’re not interested then we move onto something else. This is exactly what happened when we asked Talon and Pax to imitate the audience blowing raspberries. After being asked twice, you could tell the boys just weren’t into it so the trainers changed up the session.

Since the big guys were very energetic that particular day, their trainers asked them to do combination behaviors incorporating a raspberry behavior. First Talon was asked to dive and raspberry, but instead he dove and wiggled. Then Pax had a shot at it and pulled off the correct combo effortlessly. Once Talon saw that his brother was raspberrying, he got into the mood to do it too. He took off on a raspberrying speed run, where his head got so far out of the water we thought it would slow him down. It was quite a sight to see.

It turns out all the boys needed to do was a few high energy behaviors to get them going because the remaining of the session was raspberry filled! As they strutted then waved goodbye to the guests at the end of the narration, every behavior was coated in raspberries. It’s no surprise we always say that the silly sound is a favorite among guys.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Toy Wish List!

Louie and Delta love to play with toys from their friends!
Not near the dolphins, but still want to be a part of their fun? Check out their flipper-picked Toy Wish List! The items on our website have been tested by our trainers to ensure that the dolphins can play with them in a safe manner.
Please include your name and contact information so that we can acknowledge your generous gift.
Check back often as the dolphins and sea lions might think of other toys they'd love to have in the lagoons.
Thank you for your generous support!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Holiday Photos Program Returns to Dolphin Research Center


Grassy Key… If a picture’s worth a thousand words, imagine how friends and family will talk when they see a holiday photo picturing you and a dolphin! Now through December 22nd, Dolphin Research Center (DRC), located at 58901 Overseas Highway, Grassy Key, is again giving guests the opportunity for a holiday photo. Visitors who participate in DRC’s Meet the Dolphinprogram can bring their own Santa hats, reindeer antlers or other accessories to use while posing. DRC’s experienced photographers will shoot the pictures using high-resolution digital cameras. For Meet the Dolphin guests go onto a floating dock to give backrubs and share a “flippershake” with a dolphin and have their photo taken. 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 are supplied on a flash drive for $20 for one person, and $35 for multiple people in the same shot. Quality prints are also available and print prices vary depending on number ordered. Group size is limited to four people.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Brand New Sibling

Cayo cannot wait to be a big sister, again!
Echolocation is a sense that dolphins have that we as humans do not. Also known as bio sonar, dolphins can emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls. This creates a mental image in their head to locate and identify the objects. However, dolphins can also use it to see something similar to an x-ray.

Cayo displayed this to us during a Dolphin Encounter when she was paired up with her mom, Merina. The inquisitive six year old was more interested on scanning her momma’s belly than she was in taking part in a session. Whenever her mom was at the dock with her, Cayo was so interested in what was happening inside of Merina. Her attraction to Merina’s belly didn’t just stay at the dock though. While Merina did dorsal tows on her own, Cayo swam behind her and continued to echolocate on her tummy.

It was very interesting to see Cayo use her sense of echolocation and realize that her mom is with calf. When dolphins are pregnant, they do not get a bump around their midsections like we do. Instead they get bigger all around, making them simply look larger in whole. This is to prevent predators, like sharks, from attacking them in the wild since a pregnant dolphin could be easy prey.

Due in late October/early November, Merina is near the end of her pregnancy. She spends a lot of her time resting and does limited behaviors to ensure that the new little bundle of joy inside of her stays healthy. We’ve felt little baby dolphin tail flukes kicking inside of the mom-to-be and are so unbelievably excited to welcome the new addition to the DRC family in the Fall.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slip n Slide Fun

Calusa is a hula hoop enthusiast!
One of the most fun games for both trainers and dolphins is slip ‘n slide. We love to encourage the dolphins to slide onto the dock, do a quick pose, and then slide off. This is something they tend to do on their own in between sessions. That’s always a great photo opportunity.

Recently, Pandora and Calusa were playing with their trainer during a narrated session. To show how petite these sisters are, one of the trainers asked Pandora to come up on the dock and slide off. Pandora happily hopped on and then plunged down into the water several times. She had so much fun that when her trainer went to sit down; she slid up to the spot next to her and hogged the dock.

Then it was Calusa’s turn. However, anyone who knows Calusa knows that she adores her hula hoops. They are her favorite toys! When Calusa was asked to hop up on the deck, you could tell she was thinking “How do I get on with my hula hoop?” Seeing that she would have a little trouble, her trainer asked if she wanted her to hold the hula hoop while Calusa gave it a try. That resulted in a big no from Calusa.  She swam away to hang out with guests on the causeway.

The fun wasn’t over though. Pandora made her way to the other dock in her lagoon and began to slip ‘n slide on that platform too. However, it seemed that Miss Pandora had ulterior motives. Calusa’s favorite toy is a hula hoop, but Pandora’s is a target pole. Her trainer had left the training device in the middle of the dock and Pandora was on a mission to grab it. It took several attempts but before you knew it, Pandora had managed to propel herself onto the dock, grab the target pole, and slide off with it. She was so excited she confidently carried it around to show off to all the guests!

Sessions at DRC are often predictably unpredictable but they’re always fun! Pandora and Calusa had a great time sliding on the docks and playing with their favorite toys and we absolutely love their enthusiasm.  At the end of the program, the audience gave the two girls a round of applause as they strutted their stuff with their favorite toys.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Blessing of the Animals Day

Happy Blessing of the Animals Day!
All of our family members, from flippered to feathered to furry, are blessings.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fun Times

The trainers find all sorts of fun ways to engage the dolphins!

Here at DRC, we always try to find new ways to enrich the dolphins’ lives. This not only includes switching which trainer and dolphins work together, but also taking the interaction experience to a whole new level. It’s common for guests to see us try new things in the middle of a program or narration, just to see how the dolphins will react.

We try to schedule at least one enrichment session a day for the dolphins. All of them seem to really enjoy the spontaneity and randomness. They never know what the trainers are coming down for during a session.
We recently tried taking a floating dock into the middle of the lagoon. Trainers sat on the dock and let it float around. Each of the dolphins in the front were like, “what is going on here?” Some of the kids had fun pushing on the trainer’s feet or extended their dorsal fins for a tow. Others had absolutely no interest in what was going on and chose to stay by the seawall. It was a brand new experience for the maternity pod. When they finally became comfortable with the random dock, they did what they like to do best with floating objects; they pushed it to the far fence. The trainers ended up getting stuck out there for a little bit while the kids undoubtedly thought it was a riot.

The Animal Care and Training interns thought it would be fun to play a game of jack in the box with the dolphins. They decorated large trash cans with waves and got inside of them. Their goal was to pop out and surprise their gray faced friends. Unfortunately, this did not go as planned. The interns had trouble getting in and out of the cans so they eventually tried to stand behind them or simply put the lid on their heads. While we learned that we need bigger containers to play this game, it was still a lot of fun and something new to bring to the dolphins who weren’t entirely sure of what was going on.

It’s so fun to see how each dolphin reacts differently to new experiences. Some of them are always excited to investigate something new. Others are a little more timid and need to become comfortable when a new object or game is introduced. Enrichment allows us to get to know the dolphin’s unique dolphinalities and see what makes them excited. As we continue to incorporate new things into the dolphins’ lives, it helps us learn much more about them on both a personal and cognitive level.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stone Crab Eating Contest

Are you an amateur eater in the Florida Keys? Then find a partner and head on out to Keys Fisheries Market and Marine on Saturday, October 19th to take on other teams in an attempt to crack and eat 25 succulent stone crab claws in the fastest time! Proceeds from the team challenge will benefit the Dolphin Research Center’s Education Programs.
As a not for profit, Dolphin Research Center relies on members, donors, and our community to continue our mission of research and education. We’re thrilled that Keys Fisheries Market and Marina in cooperation with Capital Bank and Pepsi have partnered together to help our organization. We will have information about DRC at the competition, and the winning team will receive a dolphin interactive program.
All entrants must register and be present by 12 p.m. the day of the event. Teams must consist of two amateur eater participants. While contestants will be provided with shell crackers, entrants can gently smack the back the shell with the back of a large spoon – the locals way to crack claws!
To register for the team challenge or make a donation, visit any of the nine Capital Bank locations in the Keys during normal business hours. The team entry fee is $100 and contestants must be at least 18 years of age.
Whether you take part in this competition or just want to help support DRC, we look forward to seeing you at Keys Fisheries!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Almost a year ago, Aleta and Merina became pregnant and we cannot wait to meet the newest members of our family. Though these two lovely ladies have already been mothers, there is still a lot to do to prepare for the little bundles of joy. Both us humans and the dolphins are waiting in anticipation.

The two ladies became pregnant before little Reese was born, so luckily we already had one mini research tower built, but since there will be two moms our Animal Care and Habitat staff built another tower along the boardwalks that looks over different lagoons. Part of the research DRC focuses on is behavioral research. The calves will be monitored on a daily basis, all day long, by staff and volunteers to ensure that they are healthy, eating well and spending time with their mothers. We also watch each dolphin’s mothering style. Some moms are laid back, like Santini was with Reese. Other moms, like Tursi, are what we call helicopter parents in that they hover over their offspring. In order to do monitor without interrupting natural behaviors and bonding and to make sure we don’t miss anything, we often watch from a tower.

Staff members are also busy baby proofing the lagoons. While Aleta and Merina are currently in the maternity pod in the front lagoon, when it gets closer to having their babies, they will excitedly move to smaller lagoons. A newborn dolphin doesn’t know how to steer or stop, so it spends the first few weeks in its mother’s slip stream. This allows the mom to keep the baby with her as she swims and the baby doesn’t have to expend as much energy. As you can imagine, having to continuously swim in a huge lagoon with eight other curious youngsters would be very tiresome for a new mom, so we try to make it as comfortable as possible by putting them in a smaller area.

Aleta and Merina have spent the past nine months helping to babysit Reese and getting used to having a little one around again. As they get closer to their due dates, they may choose a nanny dolphin to help out with baby sitting or they may decide to take care of the youngster on their own for the first few months. Since each dolphin has their own mothering style, we take our cues from them on how they’d like to raise the little one.

Each passing day, there is so much excitement in the air at DRC. A dolphin’s gestation period is approximately one year, but like us they can have their baby early or late so we’re officially in the final stretch. Aleta and Merina are visibly advanced in their terms, to our eyes at least, and enjoy narrations focused on them and their maternity. They love to show off their growing bellies to the audience and eagerly await the days when they will introduce new family members to the DRC pod.
We cannot wait to tell all of our wonderful members and supporters when the baby dolphins arrive. Stay tuned because it can happen literally any day now!

Happy October!

Happy first day of October! What are you looking forward to this month?

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Reigning Gypsi

Doesn't Gypsi look royal?

It’s natural for dolphins to always find something to play within their environment. Whether they locate a toy from their human friends or foliage on the bottom of the lagoon, there’s always fun to be had. Their individual “dolphinalities” emerge when you allow them to figure out what they find enjoyable.

Gypsi is a little bit of a tomboy. She likes to play with balls and show off her athletic side. However, the other day she showed us her more feminine side. Gypsi found a target pole in her lagoon and decided to carry it around. She looked like a very regal and majestic princess as the pole acted like a scepter tucked under her pectoral flipper. Gypsi swam from one side of the front lagoon to the other showing off her prize to her adoring public.

Suddenly, Gypsi recognized somebody in the crowd and began to swim towards her. She made her way as close as she could to the viewing area by her lagoon. Slowly she maneuvered her target pole to her friend in the crowd, as if to say, “This is for you!” Unfortunately, the woman was not able to reach the gift but she told Gypsi “thank you” for the offer. Gypsi then swam away to play with her friend in the lagoon.

Every once in a while she’d come back, and put the pole under her flipper and swim away, only to return it when she saw her friend by the front again. It was so sweet to see Gypsi give her friend a present that

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Hit Wonder Day!

Luna and Delta love to show off to music!

Did you know today is One Hit Wonder Day? There are lots of fun songs that the dolphins like to dance to during In Tune sessions that were once chart toppers.

What song would you like to see the dolphins and sea lions boogie down to next time you visit!?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Conchtoberfest 2013

Join us tonight, September 23rd, at Sunset Grille for Jamaican Me Crazy Night to kick off Conchtoberfest 2013! We hope to see you there.

Item of the Week

Do you miss the Florida Keys? Check out this awesome DVD in our online gift shop! One of the most comprehensive DVDs for planning or remembering your Florida Keys trip. Beginning in Key Largo and ending in Key West, this DVD highlights both Keys and all those in-between!

Florida Keys Adventures

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Coastal Clean Up Day!

Today is Coastal Clean Up Day! Every piece of paper, cigarette butt or bottle that makes its way to street sewers ends up in streams or rivers and eventually down to the ocean which has the potential to compromise the health of wild animals as well as humans. Take advantage of one of the most popular volunteer days of the year and head out to the beach and/or inland locations and help remove trash and unnatural debris.

DRC will be holding a coastal clean up on October 3rd at Tom's Harbor Bridge. If you're in the Keys, feel free to join us!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Item of the Week

This 16 ounce tumbler will keep your drink hot or cold. Made of high quality acrylic (bpa free). Handwash with warm soapy water. Not suitable for dishwasher, microwave, cooking or freezing. You can choose purple or turquoise. See this item and many more great gifts in our online gift shop!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy Positive Thinking Day!

Happy Positive Thinking Day! How high will you soar today?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dolphin Behaviors

One of our favorite behaviors is a dive! Each dolphin does it their own way. Some leap high, while others keep it low. It's always fun to see how their next dive will go!

What's your favorite dolphin behavior!?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reese Channels Theresa

He doesn't know it, but his grandma surfed mangrove pieces too!
Each and every animal that calls Dolphin Research Center their forever home is showered with an abundance of love. Whether they’re with us for their entire lifetime or have been brought here for a variety of other reasons, they are all family members. Each one deserves to be honored in a unique way. When Reese was born, we wanted to give a tribute to his grandmother, Theresa, with a name that could carry on the family legacy.

When we tell stories about Theresa, a memory that sticks out is mangroves. Theresa was known for balancing mangrove pods on her melon. It was a game that she’d spend hours playing. It seems that this trait is genetic because Reese does the baby dolphin version.

While his mom, Santini, plays with people in interactive sessions, Reese explores. Recently, we’ve seen him surf leaves on his head. Since this is something his grandmother engaged in frequently you can only imagine our excitement when Reese began emulating her behavior – even though they never had a chance to meet. Cameras turned to snap a photo so that we could share it with the staff members at DRC.

Seeing dolphins who once called DRC home reflected in their children and grandchildren brings warmth to our hearts. Hopefully Reese has more of his Grandmother Theresa’s dolphinality.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Item of the Week

The featured item of the week is a DRC rash guard! Available in teal blue and royal blue, these awesome rashies look great while you play with a dolphin, snorkel, or do anything else in the water.

Rash Guards

Friday, September 6, 2013

Read a Book Day!

September 6th is Read a Book Day! Louie was in for a special treat when his friend brought a book to read to his new flippered friends.

If you could read to a dolphin, which book would it be?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Let's Weigh In!

Dolphin Research Center practices a variety of medical behaviors with the dolphins to reinforce preventative care. One of these behaviors is beaching. This originally begins as the kids learn to boost themselves up on floating platforms as a form of play. They use their tail to propel themselves out of the water onto the dock. The others then take turns pushing them off. We saw this happen a lot last year when Delta and Flagler moved into a lagoon away from their moms. Trainers use the opportunity to get them ready for learning to beach onto a scale on the dock so we can check their weight. 

Flagler tries to bring himself up on the dock.
Recently, the front lagoon weighed in. It was interesting to see the different ways that each of the kids got themselves onto the dock, posed, and got off. Flagler, Delta, and Louie were able to pull themselves from just the dock onto the scale. However, they couldn’t lift their tails out of the water yet. This requires a lot of core strength, but with each attempt they made a little more progress.

The girls, Luna and Gypsi, had completely different experiences. Luna, who has a more reserved dolphinality, couldn’t get all the way on the dock. Her trainers will continue to work with her to make it fun and exciting. Gypsi, on the other hand, has abs of steel. She’s known for her backward tail walk and can go all the way across the front lagoon. It’s no surprise she was able to get on the dock with little struggle, pose, and hop right back off several times in a row.
Luna works on beaching without using the scale.

With so many youngsters in the lagoon, it’s fun to see how each of them grows and learns differently. We’re sure that soon enough all of the kids will be beaching like pros. Until then, it’s fun to encourage them as they continue to do their best to learn the behavior.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rainbow's Colorful Nature

Rainbow loves the attention he gets when he people watches!
Time spent with the dolphins never gets old. Whether they leap through the air as though they defy the laws of gravity, or vocalize while you walk by, it’s always a wonderful feeling. However, there is one big guy here at Dolphin Research Center that manages to get a lot of attention when he literally does nothing.

His name is Rainbow and there is more to this loveable guy than meets the eye. If you’re a guest who has never walked through DRC’s grounds, and you saw a big dolphin laying with one eye up at the causeway in the same spot for most of the day, you’d wonder to yourself, “What’s wrong with him!?” We can assure you absolutely nothing. Rainbow has just mastered the art of people watching.

This handsome man not only gets people to speak and stare at him, but because his behavior is questionable, it brings a crowd. It’s not only new visitors who give him attention but often friendly faces who explain why this handsome fellow is all by himself in the corner of the lagoon. It makes us giggle to explain why Rainbow has a “toupee”. He could get sunburned on his head from staying in that spot most of the day, so we protect him with zinc oxide as sunscreen.) Or why his eye is closed. (He likes to sleep in that spot.) It’s an ingenious way to get lots of attention and a great conversation starter for staff and volunteers to explain dolphin behavior.

As soon as you see Rainbow in action during a session, you can’t believe that’s the same dolphin. If it wasn’t for the white zinc oxide you might think we switched out dolphins. With Rainbow, whether it’s time to play or nap, he always manages to spark your attention.