Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dolphin Research Center Seeks Public’s Help Finding Entangled Manatee

         Grassy Key… Dolphin Research Center (DRC), Licensed Manatee Rescue Team for the Florida Keys, is asking the public to help find a badly entangled manatee.  The manatee, named Scott, has mounds of monofilament fishing line wrapped around and embedded in both of his pectoral flippers.  The animal is approximately 9 to11 feet long and was recently spotted in the Marathon area, although he often travels throughout the Florida Keys in winter months.  Anyone who sees Scott should immediately call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) at 1-888-404-3922 to report his location.  DRC’s trained team will then attempt to outfit him with a belt and tracking tag so that a rescue mission can be coordinated.

Rescuing a manatee is a complicated process that often takes days or even weeks.  Many factors come into play including whether the animal is in an area where it can be netted and brought onto the boat for assessment and transport.  Weather, the availability of limited resources, and other things may also impact when a rescue can be tried.  Often officials must wait for optimal conditions, which is frustrating for them as well as the public that observes the manatee.  Fortunately, Scott’s condition isn’t life-threatening and he is fully mobile.  However, as the entanglement worsens, it can create complications including self-amputation of the pectoral flippers, infection and other problems.  So, assessing him is a priority.

Anyone who sees Scott should not attempt to assist him themselves or cut away any of the entangled line.  Properly helping a manatee in distress requires training and experience to minimize risk of injury to the person assisting as well as to the animal.  Identifying the location, including GPS coordinates if available, and contacting the FWCC with the timely information, is the best help that the public can provide.

Dolphin Bumper Cars

The kids love to crawl all over each other.
In the front lagoon, you never know what’s going to happen. Seven youngsters share the space with one adult.   As you can imagine, it gets pretty chaotic on occasion, especially when you’re dealing with little boys.

During a session, Louie, Delta, Gambit, and Flagler were playing at different docks but took the opportunity to be silly with one another. All of them were asked to show their tummies to the crowd and they did, but not before playing a little bit of dolphin bumper cars.

Louie floated into the middle of the lagoon and went right over Delta, who decided to go over Flagler. Gambit managed to get through without being bumped but still played along with the rest of the boys. When the trainers blew their whistles, the signal that says, “That’s great, now return to me”,  all of the boys flipped over at the same time and tried to go through each other to get back to the dock.

Don’t worry though; it’s natural for the dolphins to climb over each other. Sometimes when a dolphin is asked to go from one side of a dock to the other to wait their turn, they swim right over their friend’s back. The dolphins are a lot like kids! Extremely playful and energetic. They cannot wait to go back, see their human friends, and have fun.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DRC Cares For All Animals

Mandy Rodriguez, co-founder and COO, was able to coax the pelican over to him.
We may be called Dolphin Research Center, but the staff and volunteers at the facility are committed to helping all critters. Every animal that resides on DRC’s grounds is ensured a safe environment. Whether they’re an iguana that has decided to call us home or a bird that is flying in to try to grab a meal, our mission is to give them an excellent quality of life.

The other day, staff members noticed a pelican in distress. Our very own co-founder and COO, Mandy Rodriguez, watched it to see if it was exhibiting any odd behavior. It seemed as if it needed help, so Mandy decided to catch it to offer assistance.

The pelican was hesitant to come to Mandy, so to get closer to the bird, he got into the water. As he entered, the bird became more comfortable and, with the help of some fish, Mandy coaxed the bird into his arms.

Never one to miss an opportunity for education, Mandy took the time to tell onlookers about the bird. Based on the size of the bill, we were able to determine that it was a female, so we affectionately named her Beverly. Mandy also explained that Beverly was obviously not in a tremendous amount of distress because she was attempting to eat. As he talked more about the pelican, guests were amazed by how calm the bird was in his arms.
Mandy and staff member, Willy Cotto, discuss pelicans with guests.

We quickly checked her out.  Wanting to err on the side of caution, we took her to the Wild Bird Sanctuary in Marathon, Florida. After we dropped her off and staff thoroughly looked her over, they determined that Beverly had a hook in her neck.

Beverly’s ailment was a direct effect of improperly discarded fishing gear. We are happy that we were able to help her but there are many other birds, as well as other animals, who suffer a similar fate without being saved. It is important to make sure that fishing gear and trash are securely thrown away in order to keep animals safe.

We’re happy we were able to get Beverly the attention that she needed. We wish her the best on her journey to recovery!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Speed Dolphins

Jax loves to race his buddy A.J.

A.J., Jax, and Tanner love the Keys’ lifestyle. Generally, these three “little boys” are pretty laid back. They enjoy play time with their trainers, but also love to hang out by the causeway and people watch. Even though A.J. is an adult and Tanner and Jax are still pretty young, their chill dolphinalities allow them to enjoy each other’s company.

Jax, who is the youngest, still has his kid moments. He loves to crawl all over A.J. and Tanner and create a little chaos. One of his favorite things to do is challenge the other two on races.

When these three guys are asked to do a speed run together, they all take off at the same time. However, Jax likes to pull out fast and swim past his two buddies so he’s in the lead. As they come into their final approach, Jax makes sure he crosses the imaginary finish line first.

Jax’s need for speed isn’t necessarily competitive. He is the youngster of the group, so he still loves to play around and act like  a juvenile dolphin. Jax absolutely adores A.J. and Tanner, and is constantly learning from them.

It’s so much fun to watch A.J., Jax, and Tanner together. These three guys are so charming and sweet that you can’t help but fall in love with all of them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Disco Delta

Delta loves to boogie.
We love to see our family members’ dolphinalities shine. It’s interesting to talk to staff about each animal, because we see each of them uniquely. Sometimes a certain person spends a lot of time with one dolphin, while another focuses on another family member. While all of the trainers work with all of the dolphins, there is always something new to uncover about each member of the pod.

Delta, who lives in a lagoon with six other juvenile dolphins, has begun to really show off his quirky side. He loves to have a great time. He’s very curious and has shown that he likes to do things on his own terms.

During an afternoon session with volunteers, Delta had fun as the volunteers spent time with him and the other dolphins in the front lagoon. Suddenly, one of the volunteers asked Delta to dance. He then started to wiggle one of his pectoral flippers. Not only was it adorable, but it resulted in a great new nickname for him, “Disco Delta”!

The volunteers decided that Delta was getting his groove on to the beat of his own song, which apparently was a medley from the disco era. On occasion, Delta waves the same pectoral flipper when asked to dance. It seems that Disco Delta may have found his signature move.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Calusa!

Born to Merina and Rainbow at DRC in 2001, Calusa came into this world with the same zest for life that she has today! She loves to squeal at guests for attention, is full of dolphinality, and adores hula hoops. If you see a pretty girl with a dorsal like a lasagna noodle, you've found our little goose.
Happy Birthday Calusa! We love you.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


On behalf of Dolphin Research Center, Cayo and Delta wish you a wonderful
Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Mandy getting a kiss from his buddy, Tanner.
Have you ever been asked a question that completely stumped you? Dolphin Research Center’s very own co-founder and COO, Mandy Rodriguez, asked several children in the crowd during a session with his buddy Tanner, what they think happens when he presses a dolphin belly button. The kids shrugged their shoulders and looked at their parents, who also had no idea of the answer. The entire audience had an immensely confused looks on their faces. What does happen when you push a dolphin’s belly button?

 It turns out that they make bubbles! Well, the dolphins at DRC do at least. They not only blow bubbles, but wiggle their flippers when they’re tickled, and blow raspberries, which we joke they learned from the male workers at the facility.

The kids in the audience loved all of the behaviors Tanner showed off that were just like human activities. Not only was the session fun but it was informative too! We believe that’s the best way to learn.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sea Rescue!

Our little super star, Jax.

Our very own Jax and Mandy Rodriguez will be featured on the February 16th episode of Sea Rescue. Tune in Saturday morning, or set your DVR's, to hear all about this incredible story.

Be sure to let us know what you think by hitting us up on Facebook after the show.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dolphin Snacks

Louie and Luna are like two peas in a pod.

One of the most common questions staff and volunteers are asked at Dolphin Research Center is, “do the dolphins eat the fish in their lagoons”? Our typical response is that they get free room service every day, so they’re pretty content with eating what’s in their bucket. However, the dolphins do enjoy playing and eating fish in their lagoons.

Louie, being a rescue from Louisiana, loves to munch on shrimp. He’s been known to wander away from his dock and chase them around the lagoon. This begins as a play time session that turns into building anticipation as his crowd wonders whether he will or will not gobble it down. Just when we think Louie is going to let the little shrimp swim off, he’s swallowed them.

While he does like to chomp on the shellfish in between sessions, he loves to make a big production out of eating in front of an audience. Being a smart little guy, Louie may listen in on narrations and know that his human friends get asked that question every day. What better way to educate the public than have a dolphin show them?

Louie isn’t the only young dolphin who loves to play with fishy lagoon friends. Luna spends a lot of time chasing minnows around the water. You’ll often find her swimming in circles by herself with her mouth open. To her, they’re like dolphin popcorn.

Cayo has gotten in on the action too. She enjoys a sardine chase. Cayo can often be seen speeding around the lagoon. While she’s not food motivated, Cayo is a very active dolphin. She entertains herself by giving the fish a food scare.

Some of the dolphins use the fish in their lagoons as a bargaining tool. When she finds one, Santini shows it off to her trainers and makes a big production out of having grabbed one. She knows that the trainers will trade her herring to try to save the fish.

Like every other behavior, the dolphins learn how to hunt their prey from their mothers. You’ll find that a calf reacts to fish the same way that their mothers do. Dolphins like Louie, have learned how to hunt fish from his adoptive family here at DRC.

The dolphins do different things with the fish and critters that live in their lagoons. Some eat them, some chase them, some scare them, and some use them for entertainment. Living in a natural environment, there are lots of dolphin snacks and play things swimming around.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Anniversary Louie!

Happy Anniversary to our little man from Louisiana. Louie is a young male dolphin that was discovered on Fourchon Beach, LA, on September 2, 2010, covered in oil and suffering additional injuries. Estimated to be between one and two years old when rescued, and lacking adequate skills to survive on his own, he was deemed non-releasable by the federal government. Two years ago today, on February 6, 2011, we welcomed Louie into the Dolphin Research Center family. We love this little man so much and are so happy to provide him with his forever home.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A.J. Sets Up His Target

A.J. with his saber.
In the pod of three young males, A.J., Tanner, and Jax, A.J. is the laid back one. He’s happy to just hang around the causeway and also loves high energy sessions. A.J. is absolutely hilarious and will do almost anything to put a smile on somebody’s face. Even though he is a very relaxed dude, A.J. sometimes does some very interesting things.
After a session, one of the trainers left a target pole for the boys to play within the lagoon. A.J. carried it around like it was a saber. Under his flipper, he took it from one lagoon to the other as if he was a king with a scepter.
He must have been in a royal mood, because when Jax tried to swim through the gate to follow his buddy, A.J. blocked the gate. He held the target pole vertically across the opening which kept Jax from swimming through to the other side.
Jax did a little tango with his friend, as he tried to go through but A.J. kept him out. It seemed that Jax gave up and swam away. However, the spunky little man had one more card up his flipper. When A.J. let his guard down, Jax swiftly swam through to the shallows. He squealed in delight as he did a victory lap.
Don’t worry though; these two are still great friends. A.J. even let Jax carry the target pole around the lagoon after the adventure.