Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Like Mother Like Daughter

Tursi's only daughter, Gypsi, is getting to be more like her mom everyday!
Anyone who walks through the facility can hear a special dolphin named Tursi. Whenever Tursi does a behavior, she screams. Whether it is a leap, flying forward, bob, or anything else from her extensive repertoire, a high pitch squeal accompanies her actions. She was never trained to do this but it’s become a big part of her unique dolphinality.

Tursi has a little girl named Gypsi, who we lovingly refer to as Whopper Junior since she is Tursi’s only daughter. We’ve all wondered whether she’d one day incorporate the signature scream into her behaviors and it looks like she may be on the verge.

Lately, when Gypsi is asked to do a behavior we’ve heard a faint squeal emerge from her blowhole. It’s not as loud or high pitched as her momma’s, but it is audible. It sounds a bit like a gargle, but it’s adorable none the less!

None of Tursi’s boys carried on the tradition of squealing so it would be awesome if her baby girl develops this trademark habit. We can just imagine the two of them grabbing even more attention as they leap and scream together.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mangrove Decorations

Aleta, and her lagoon mates, kept peeking over the mangroves to see what Mandy was doing.
While Aleta, Merina, and Pandora were playing with their trainers, they suddenly lost interest in what was going on at their dock and began peeking over the mangroves. It turns out that Mandy Rodriguez, Dolphin Research Center’s COO and Co-Founder, was gardening and the girls wanted to see just what he was doing to spruce up their home.

As Mandy took care of some maintenance and trimmed a few trees, the girls eagerly watched. Even when their trainers called them back over to the dock, the girls couldn’t tear their eyes away from the remodeling.

Perhaps the girls just wanted to add their own feminine touch, or wanted to make sure Mandy was doing a good job. Either way, the girls seemed to be very interested. Once he finished, the girls returned to the dock.  Guess that was their seal of approval.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Environmental Services Department at Play

Our ES staff spend time with Molly and Calusa.
One of the greatest aspects about working at Dolphin Research Center is that staff members are encouraged to spend time entertaining our animal family. Guests will often see people in DRC shirts with a goofy grin on their face as they wave hello to the dolphins on the causeway, shout good mornings to the sea lions, or hop up and down with the birds.

Some of the hardest workers at DRC, our Environmental Services (ES) Department, spend a lot of time working for the dolphins. They construct and update the animal habitats, are key players in medical assists, and do an enormous amount of physical labor around the facility. They work hard and always have a smile on their face.

Recently, these awesome set of guys got to spend time having fun with dolphins! As they went out on the docks, their faces stretched with smiles as they played, kissed, high fived, and bonded with the dolphin family.

As many watched their session, with Molly and Calusa, their joy exuded into the air. They each took turns asking for behaviors and getting some well deserved photo ops. Every staff member and volunteer on the causeway agreed these guys deserved dolphin play time more than anyone else.

It wasn’t just a treat for ES, but for Molly and Calusa too. Anyone who knows these two ladies knows that they love male attention, especially Miss Molly. As the guys rubbed Molly’s back and flippers, she looked like she was in dolphin heaven.

When you come to a facility like DRC, you see the trainers, education staff, and guest service members, but there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that keeps the place running. Every single member of the DRC team, our family, is integral to us being able to care for the animals and provide an educational experience for the public. It’s only fair that the guys, who work hard, get to play hard too!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Volunteer Recognition Day

The cake from DRC's Volunteer Recognition Day 2013.

Have you ever thought about volunteering at Dolphin Research Center? In 2012, we had 107 volunteers. Currently, there are five volunteers with more than 2,000 hours, and one with over 25,000 hours! This does not include school groups that visit to volunteer their time at DRC. 

 In honor of Volunteer Recognition Day this post goes out to all of our fabulous volunteers from the past, present, and future. The responsibilities handled by our volunteers represent vital aspects of our operations. Volunteers work in our fish house where our dolphins' meals are prepared, care for our family of exotic birds, assist visitors by answering questions and monitoring interactive programs and tours, and are involved with facility maintenance such as trash collection, recycling, seaweed removal and fence cleaning, painting and landscaping. They also help with administrative projects such as computer data entry and preparation of bulk mailings.

 Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers. We couldn’t be DRC without your amazing hard work and dedication.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Whose Target Pole?

Pandora doesn't like to share her target pole with anyone.

During a dock time session with the girls in the back, a staff member was lucky to get a present from Aleta. It was one of the girls’ favorite toys, a target pole! However, it seemed that Aleta had been a little overzealous in her choice of gift.

We all know that each dolphin has their own favorite object, and target poles are Pandora’s. She absolutely adores carrying them around like a regal lady. So, when Aleta snatched away her target pole to give to someone else, it was pretty clear that, while it was a sweet gesture, she wasn’t pleased.

The funny thing is that, even though we always love dolphin presents, sometimes you can’t accept them. Especially when you know one is considered theft. As soon as Pandora saw that Aleta had snatched her target pole and was ready to give it away, she raced over to get it back. As Pandora grabbed it and safely tucked it under her flipper, the staff member told her she would never have accepted the purloined target pole.

Aleta did try to steal Pandora’s toy a few more times, but it was useless. Anyone who knows Pandora knows that you don’t take away her target pole unless she gives it to you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Luna Noodle

Luna loves new things!
Introducing dolphin safe toys is a fun way to keep the dolphins stimulated and see their likes and dislikes. Some of the dolphins love their hula hoops and target poles, while others love to have a basketball thrown into their lagoon. With so many youngsters in the Dolphin Research Center pod, we’re constantly bringing toys onto the dock for dolphin play time.
The newest toy Luna has begun to play with is a pool noodle. It’s the same cylindrical piece of foam that humans use in the water. However, instead of using it as a floatation device, the dolphins use it in many ways. Some dolphins love the way it feels against their skin. Others like to carry it around. Sometimes the dolphins swim under or jump over it. One thing we’ve learned here at DRC is that the dolphins will find all sorts of unique uses for the same object.

Luna, a three year old youngster, is still deciding whether or not she likes noodles. With her trainers, she slowly touches her rostrum against the foam and then quickly swims away. When she pops her beautiful face out of the water, she squeals as if to say “Did you see? I touched it!” After all, touching a new object is a big deal!

It may take Luna a bit longer to get use to the noodle, but we can tell she’s enjoying the new object. Every time the trainer brings it down onto the dock, she gets excited. We love to play with her, but not for too long. Like any other training, it’s important to end on a positive note.  Once Luna has a few good experiences with the noodle, it’s time to focus on something else.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Walk on Your Wild Side Day

Today is Walk on Your Wild Side Day.

Take a cue from Gypsi and do something completely unpredictable. Be spontaneous and extraordinary.

Wow those around you.

Live like a dolphin.

Put a smile on another person’s face.

Play like you did as a child.

Enjoy every moment of today! :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dorsal Pulls

Flagler has learned dorsal pulls but now gets to learn how to drive!
How many of you out there have swimming with dolphins on your bucket list? It’s an activity that many people dream about throughout their entire lives and Dolphin Research Center is fortunate to be able to make those dreams come true! Guests can do a multitude of interactive programs from both on the dock and in the water to spend time with the DRC pod.

The most popular program is the Dolphin Encounter, where guests get wet with a dolphin. This program includes a kiss, handshake, imitations, signals, and a dorsal pull. The dolphins do these sessions every day, so it becomes second nature. However, DRC has several younger dolphins who are still learning how to master the pulls.

DRC doesn’t have any “behind the scenes” areas where training takes place, so guests not only see how we teach the dolphins, but they also often get to be part of the training process. 

One of the first things dolphins learn is to follow a target pole, which looks like a giant cotton swab. The dolphins learn to put their rostrum, or other parts of the body on the pole.

During a recent Dolphin Encounter, Luna and Flagler (Ages three and two respectively) worked on their dorsal pulls. An important part of the behavior is the pattern. The kids are learning a nice figure eight in a smaller lagoon. Working on this required four people.

The first was their trainer, who sent them on the dorsal pull. The second was the guest who held on as the youngsters took him for a ride. Two other trainers stood on the boardwalks with target poles to guide Luna and Flagler.

The trainers stood on each side and slapped the poles against the water to indicate which direction Luna and Flagler were meant to go. The kids traveled from one pole directly across the pool to the other pole, then around to drop their swimmer off at the dock. With each guest, Luna and Flagler got better at their pattern. They began to understand where they were supposed to go and do it without the added hint of the target poles.

The youngsters are still perfecting this behavior but they’ve almost got it down. Every day, the trainers work with them so that they can get better and better. Luna and Flagler love to know that they’re doing exactly what they’re asked and we love seeing their growth with each program.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

National Sibling Day

April 10th is National Sibling Day.
Calusa and Pandora are half-sisters and the best of friends.
Best friends and sisters for life :)
They love to create mischief, grab attention, and be silly with one another.
If you have a sibling that you adore, go to our facebook page and share this photo with them!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Speedster Gambit!

Gambit loves to play!
There are certain behaviors that each dolphin loves. Right now, Gambit loves his speed runs. Whenever he’s asked for it, he gets incredibly excited and cannot wait to show off how awesome he can race. Gambit makes many of his behaviors into a combination activity by opting to turn them into a need for speed.

Recently, Gambit gave a guest a super speedy backrub. He literally flew past her, did a large circle around his lagoon, and then came back to the dock. When his trainer asked him to go a bit slower, he took off again with the same intensity.

She then asked Gambit for his shark impression and he did an awesome speed shark combo. It looked like a shark hyped up on caffeine and had everyone who watched in giggles.
The greatest thing about the dolphins at DRC is that they’re welcome to be individuals. If Gambit decides for the next year all he wants to do is speedy sharks, he’s more than welcome to show off his signature behavior. We love seeing each of their dolphinalities come to life as they show off their creativity and uniqueness.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gypsi Smacks It Out Of the Park

Gypsi works with her trainer, Kelly Jayne, to perfect her back flip.
For a six year old, Gypsi’s athleticism is unbelievable. She has the best back tail walk out of all of the dolphins, dives higher with each day, and is mastering new behaviors that dolphins are taught at an older age. Being the daughter of Tursi, our Flipper daughter, and Rainbow, a jock of a dolphin, it’s no surprise that Gypsi enjoys staying active.

The newest behavior Gypsi has begun to learn is her back flip. To do a back flip, a dolphin flies out of the water, does a somersault, and completes a full 360 turn. Each of the dolphins at Dolphin Research Center, that knows how to do a flip, has put their own spin on their back flip. Some fall back into the water face first, while others lead with their tail. It’s interesting to see how each unique dolphin does the same action.

Gypsi, who takes after her athletic parents, loves to give every new endeavor 110 percent. With her trainer, Kelly Jayne, Gypsi always works hard when it’s time to practice back flips. They’ll try it from different areas of the lagoon, and various heights.

At the beginning of a session, Kelly Jayne stood on the sea lion boardwalk, which is several feet higher than the dock. She carried an extra long target pole with her, which Gypsi uses to determine how high she needs to get out of the water to do the entire turn by smacking it with her tail flukes. From the boardwalk, Gypsi had a bit of a hard time reaching the target. Kelly Jayne gave her several attempts to reach the target pole from that height. Then, they moved over to a lower dock to continue the session.

As soon as Gypsi saw Kelly Jayne reach the target pole out over the lagoon, she knew she was going to hit the target. She was given the hand signal for back flip, dove down into the water to gather speed, flew out of the lagoon, and smacked the target pole so hard it flew out of Kelly Jayne’s hands. As the bar took to the air, Kelly Jayne raised her arms over her head to make sure it didn’t hit her as gravity pulled it down.

Once it had safely returned to the ground, Kelly Jayne and the rest of her audience laughed intensely. Gypsi had decided she was going to get the target pole and that’s exactly what she did! Yet again this little one proved that her determination goes far beyond any behavior.

Gypsi still has work to do on her back flip, but we’re certain she’ll have it down in no time. This little girl doesn’t give up. If she continues to take after her parents, Gypsi will amaze people with her agile body and perseverance for a long time.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Find a Rainbow Day!

An amazing double Rainbow!
In a rainbow, raindrops that are in the air act like little tine prisms, light enters the raindrops, reflects off of the side of the drop and exits. Sunlight enters the rain droplet at a specific angle and the rain droplet separates the whi...te light into many different colors. This angle is a fixed measurement between your eye and the sun. What color is refracted depends upon the critical angle, which is the angle the sunlight strikes the back of the rain droplet. Red light bends the least, exiting the rain droplet at a 42 degree angle, while Violet light bends the most, exiting the rain droplet at a 40 degree angle. All of the other colors of the rainbow exit the rain droplets at some angle between 40 and 42 degrees, thus making up the colors of the rainbow ROYGBIV, this order never changes.

Dolphin Research Center is surrounded by beauty, but on one particularly gorgeous day we were able to snap this photo. Turns out it’s perfect for April 3rd: Find a Rainbow Day. Not only is there magnificence in the sky, but the handsome dolphin soaring through it is Rainbow! This is by far the most amazing double rainbow we’ve ever seen.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Old Switcheroo

Can you tell which dolphin is which?
Talon and Pax are half brothers and to an untrained eye, look almost identical. They’re both large, extremely athletic, and take after their mother, Tursi, in their physical characteristics. Besides their looks, these two have very similar dolphinalities as well. Both try to get their trainers soaked on sessions, are lovably loud, and have impressive aerial behaviors. Sometimes you can’t help but mix up these two boys.

Recently, they had a fun time causing a little mischief with their trainers. Pax constantly took Talon’s place while Talon pretended he didn’t notice. Due to how excited the trainers, crowd, and dolphins were, there were a few times that nobody noticed they had switched places. It was comedic gold.
At the end of the session, it was time for Talon to get his water, a medical behavior we train all of the dolphins which allows us to give them extra hydration. His trainer, who was having a blast answering questions from the audience, wasn’t paying full attention and didn’t realize at first that Pax had taken Talon’s place. She went along the usual routine; let Pax sit on her feet and sprayed his mouth with teeth cleaner as she chatted on about dolphins. It wasn’t until she looked down again to show him the tube that she realized she didn’t have Talon. She had Pax!

Pax must have thought the switch was hilarious because he couldn’t help but blow a raspberry at her once she figured it out. Talon acted as if he had no idea what was going on, but we all knew he was in on the joke too! As his trainer got ready to water the correct dolphin, she gave Pax a smooch to show there were no hard feelings.

We love that the dolphins have their own unique dolphinalities and enjoy play time with their human friends. Talon and Pax are two guys you have to make sure you keep your eyes on. They love to mess around with us and keep us on our toes.