|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.