Saturday, March 30, 2013


We'd like to wish Pax a Happy Sweet 16! On Easter Sunday, in 1997, DRC was blessed by Pax's birth. Due to his birthdate, Pax was named in honor of the latin word "peace". Don't you agree that being in the presence of a dolphin is one of the most peaceful feelings?
Happy Birthday Pax-man. We love you!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Aleta Starts The Show

Aleta knows she's in charge!

It’s a known fact that Dolphin Research Center runs on dolphin time. Whatever the dolphins want to do is what they do. Whether it’s an in water program with guests or a training session, the dolphins decide their schedule.

This includes when it’s time to start a program as well. During a session with her lagoon mates, Pandora and Merina, Aleta started the program before anyone was ready. When she saw her trainer carry the buckets over to her dock, Aleta began to do cartwheels somersaults to get attention. She was so ready to play that she couldn’t contain her excitement and made sure that everyone had their eyes on her.

As the trainers talked to the guests who were waiting to spend some quality time with dolphins, Aleta became the star of her own show. With screams and whistles, she “narrated” to the audience about what was going on and hurried her trainer down onto the tray. Before symbols were in the water, Aleta took off on a dive. As she soared through the air, her lagoon mates found their designated seats and caught up with her.

Aleta loves the attention she receives from guests so much that she can’t help but make a splash. She loves the camera, the affection, and the glamorous dive lifestyle that she lives here at DRC. It’s all fun and games when it comes to the beautiful and talented Aleta.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dolphin Enjoyment

Molly, Calusa, Pandora, and Aleta love attention.
A question staff is asked a lot is, “Do you think the dolphins enjoy being here?” We may be biased, but we believe they do. The dolphins, and the rest of the animals at Dolphin Research Center, don’t have to do anything they don’t want to. They run the facility. Everything is on dolphin time. If the dolphins decide they’re not in the mood to do a session with their trainer or the public, they don’t have to. We realize that the dolphins are much like us. Even though many of us feel we have the greatest jobs in the world, sometimes there are days where we’d rather stay in bed than go to work. It’s a natural part of life. How can we tell that the dolphins truly enjoy the attention they receive? We see it in a variety of ways.

Every morning, staff goes out  to the lagoons, to say hello to our dolphin family. The pod screams, squeals, cheers, makes funny noises, and does so much more to get our attention. We blow kisses to them and they blow them back. We sit on the dock, without a bucket of fish, and they offer backrubs, toys, and gifts. We’re as much a part of their family as they are ours.

Then there’s the unique qualities that each of the dolphins have to get more attention. The most recognizable is Tursi’s scream. No one taught her to scream at the height of her behaviors, but she knows it gets attention so she does it. Staff members can be sitting on the other side of the facility, having a meeting, hear her famous scream, and know it’s Tursi.

We can also see and hear their excitement. Often times during narrations with trainers on the dock, you can barely even hear what’s being said because the dolphins are screaming so loud. They aren’t there to put on a show; they’re there to play with their human friends. The dolphins feed off of our own excitement. The louder and more colorful you are, the more they’re going to give you in a session. It’s an amazing dynamic to witness.

Many guests see it when they walk into the facility. We have outstanding reviews about DRC and how clear it is that we truly love, respect, and give the best care to the animals that call it home. There are lots of ways to see that the love for the time spent with the dolphins is reciprocated. They have a fabulous life and are loved beyond measure.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Louie Gives Out Rings

Louie enjoyed his research games with the interns.
One of the research games that Louie is great at is “Match to Sample”. The object of the game is to match the object he is shown with the same item when given a choice between two different things. Every time he plays, Louie gets super excited!

It seems that he’s taken to the game in more ways than one. During a session with his trainer, Erica, Louie randomly left the dock and returned with a dive ring. Erica made such a big deal about the surprise present that Louie swam off again and returned with another ring. He was so thrilled with himself for finding two of the same object.

The ring love didn’t stop there though. As Erica brought down two of our research interns that were saying their goodbyes to the staff and animals, Louie swam away and returned with not one, but two dive rings on his rostrum; one for each of the girls who had spent the past four months playing cognitive games with him. It was like Louie knew it was time to say his farewell to the awesome ladies who he’d grown close to over the months and took the opportunity to show them that he knew exactly what part they played at DRC.

At the end of the session, Louie somehow managed to find another dive ring. It seems that he was on a roll. Louie must know that a way to a girl’s heart is through a pretty ring!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Luna Gives A Lesson

Luna showed Tursi she was a pro.
Luna is one of the tenacious three year olds that reside at Dolphin Research Center. At a very young age, she showed independence and maturity far beyond her years. She’s always ready to do something new and take the lead.

During a recent Dolphin Encounter, Luna was paired up with Tursi. Anyone who knows Tursi knows that she is a super mom. She loves to be in charge and keep her kids in check. She’s so good at it that she currently lives in the front lagoon with seven youngsters and no other moms.

We’ve nicknamed Tursi the “helicopter mom” of the facility because she always hovers over her kids. When it comes to Gambit, no matter what dock he’s stationed at or where he’s playing, Tursi knows exactly what’s going on. If she’s in the middle of a behavior or dorsal tow and sees her baby boy about to play with something she disapproves of, Tursi will swim up, snatch it, and keep on going. She’s stealth in her observation and sweeps.

As the resident helicopter mom, she’s thrilled to spend every day with all the kids. The youngsters learn a lot from their moms and baby sitters, but it seems that Luna took it upon herself to show up Tursi.

To begin every interactive session, the participants give the dolphins back rubs. It’s a nice way to say hello and become more comfortable with the marine mammals in front of them. On this session, Tursi went first. As she slid under the guests’ hands, she kept missing the last two people in the line. When Luna was asked to go, she made sure she got everyone and came back to her trainer with a triumphant smile plastered on her face. You could almost hear her say to Tursi that she did exactly what she was asked to do.

The rest of the session continued in that fashion. At one point, Tursi swam away completely and Luna had a blast playing with the guests by herself. It turns out that Luna can hold her own on a program. The look on her beautiful, gray, face radiated pure glee as she finished the session. When it was time for the goodbye backrubs, Luna strutted and smiled as she made sure every single guest got a stellar farewell.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Happy Birthday Tanner!

Happy Birthday to Tanner! He turns 11 today.
Son to A.J. and Santini, Tanner has proven himself to be an extremely intelligent and sweet natured young man. He is a research superstar and is always finding new ways to challenge both himself and his trainers.
Happy Birthday Mr. Tanner. We love you buddy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A.J.'s a Talker

If only we knew what A.J. had to say!
We often joke that Santini is A.J.’s ex-wife. The two of them have a son, named Tanner, who lives in the same lagoon as A.J. It seems that A.J. hasn’t gotten over the beautiful Santini because ever since she moved across the causeway, he’s been chatting to her on the “telephone”.

The “telephone” is a pipe that connects the two lagoons. All of the dolphins at DRC love to chat with one another, so since it’s kind of like the old school game of telephone, where you have two cans connect by a string. 

A few months ago, Santini gave birth to a bundle of joy, named Reese and A.J. wants to hear all about it. Now that Reese is becoming more independent and swimming on his own, A.J. seems to have taken his chatting skills up a notch. Sometimes he won’t even show up to sessions because he’s so entranced in their conversation.

Every once in a while the other boys in the lagoon hang out by the telephone too, but it’s A.J. that loves to chatter away with Miss Santini.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tursi Gets Younger With Age

Tursi loves to have a good time!
Recently, Tursi became the designated mom in the front lagoon as the other mother and calf pairs weaned. She now shares the lagoon with her two year old son, Gambit, two year old Flagler, three year olds Delta, Louie, and Luna, and six year olds Cayo and Gypsi. For any other mother, this may have been a fluke full, but Tursi is our supermom. She enjoys every single minute of it.

As she continues to nurse and teach Gambit, she’s also taken Flagler and Delta under her flipper. The four them can often be seen swimming around the lagoon together. Being a naturally nurturing dolphin, Tursi easily keeps all of the youngsters in line.

Not only is Tursi blissfully happy to be the resident mom, but she’s also learning a lot from her younger lagoon mates. She’s begun to be more lenient in her mothering style. Normally, during a session Tursi will swim away to check on Gambit. However, she’s begun to do this less frequently and even allows him to play with more objects than she has in the past.

The funniest part of all is that Tursi has decided she, once again, enjoys a game of seaweed toss with her human friends! She often brings a wad of sea grass over to the dock for her friends to throw back out to her. She’s done this with several staff and volunteers, on different occasions. This game is often played by the much younger dolphins, so it’s refreshing to see Tursi get in on the action. The youngsters may have inspired her!

As she plays, Gambit watches. Not only is Tursi interacting with her human family but at the same time she’s teaching Gambit how to play. This ensures that Gambit knows the rules but also allows him to play a bit on his own. When she’s decided the game is over she happily swims away with her son in tow.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

An Encounter to Remember

People who take part in our sessions often get to play dolphin trainer themselves. During the swim program, the young dolphins often work on their manners and to keep their heads up out of the water so that their eyes show in pictures, among a vast amount of other behaviors.

During a particularly entertaining Dolphin Encounter, two of our youngest dolphins were paired together, Gambit and Luna. As baby dolphins their minds tend to wander, especially when there are a dozen different things going on during a session. In this one specifically, there were a lot of distractions!
Luna loves her in water friends!

Gambit and Luna were positioned at the dock in front of the Flipper’s Sea School sign by the front lagoon. To their right, at the main dock by the sea lion habitat, a narration was going on with Molly. To their left, at our biggest dock, other in water programs were taking place. Directly across from them Gypsi and Delta were with their trainer.

These little youngsters are used to the organized chaos that is a session at Dolphin Research Center. However, adding an extra dose of curiosity, our Environmental Services team was at work in the lagoon going through the mangroves to find hidden toys the dolphins had placed in among the branches and roots. Plus, there was an inflatable boat in the lagoon! We’re not dolphins, but if we had all of that around us, we’d probably have a hard time paying attention too.
Gambit can rock any behavior.

While only two and three years old respectively, Gambit and Luna are both extremely intelligent and have amazingly spirited. When it came to kisses, handshakes, backrubs, and imitations with the swimmers, they excelled! For the dorsal pulls, however, they proved that two kids aren’t always the best drivers.

During the tows, neither Luna nor Gambit knew how to steer. They waited for their guest to grab a hold of their dorsal fins, but then weren’t sure what to do. Generally, they do swims with other dolphins. Gambit is often with his mom, Tursi, and Luna is paired up with an older dolphin, often Cayo or Gypsi. The two youngsters together was a big change of pace, but it’s good to keep the dolphins on their tail flukes. When it became clear that Gambit and Luna really couldn’t do the dorsal pulls on their own, their trainer called in for reinforcement. From across the lagoon, Gypsi swam over, ready to make memories with the guests!

As Gypsi took each swimmer around the lagoon on her own, Luna and Gambit became more comfortable and were eager to join. Gypsi would swoop in to grab a guest’s hand and Luna would take the other. Gambit would swim from behind in the girls’ stream. Before you knew it, guests had Luna on the left, Gypsi on the right, and Gambit doing foot pushes! The swimmers had a truly unique experience in the water with these three special dolphins.

Once the dorsal pulls were over, Gypsi went back to her original dock and Luna and Gambit were thrilled to continue their play time with guests. They even began to create new behaviors simultaneously. When you’re working with dolphins, you have to be prepared to expect the unexpected but you’ll always leave with a smile on your face.