We’ve all heard the saying, “monkey see, monkey do”, but what about “dolphin see, trainer do”? We’ve learned to get creative when introducing something new to the dolphins.
Paint with a Dolphin is one of the most popular programs Dolphin Research Center offers. In this dock session, guests pick two colors, hold out a t-shirt, and watch as a dolphin creates a work of art. As you can imagine, the dolphins don’t use their flippers to hold the paintbrush; they use their mouths! To keep the process “dolphin safe” we use non toxic paint and created a brush that our gray faced friends can maneuver easily and not swallow. We’ve recently introduced a new paint brush to the dolphins and are training them to use it. As a brand new object, some of them are a little reluctant to use something slightly different. This paint brush had a much larger base than the ones the dolphins typically use.
During a training session, Merina and Aleta were shown by their trainer, Linda, how great it is to have a new paint brush. Linda asked them to open their mouths and then hold the object. This resulted in several splashes in the lagoon as both girls hesitated with the new object. Linda decided to place it in her mouth first to show them that it was absolutely safe. It was quite a sight to see. Linda held the brush and pretended to paint like a dolphin. Merina and Aleta watched their trainer and became interested in the new object.
After a little persuasion, Merina decided to give it a try. She held the handle in her mouth for about ten seconds before she let it drop. Then it was Aleta’s turn. Miss Aleta wasn’t as interested as her sister and didn’t hold the brush on her own. Linda asked her to touch it, and when she did, congratulated her.
This was the first time that Aleta and Merina saw the new paintbrush and we’re thrilled with the first step in the training process. DRC wants to always keep experiences positive for the dolphins, so after each of the girls at least touched the brush it was time to play. It may take a couple more sessions to get the girls comfortable with the new item, but they’ll be painting with it in no time.