Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Almost a year ago, Aleta and Merina became pregnant and we cannot wait to meet the newest members of our family. Though these two lovely ladies have already been mothers, there is still a lot to do to prepare for the little bundles of joy. Both us humans and the dolphins are waiting in anticipation.
The two ladies became pregnant before little Reese was born, so luckily we already had one mini research tower built, but since there will be two moms our Animal Care and Habitat staff built another tower along the boardwalks that looks over different lagoons. Part of the research DRC focuses on is behavioral research. The calves will be monitored on a daily basis, all day long, by staff and volunteers to ensure that they are healthy, eating well and spending time with their mothers. We also watch each dolphin’s mothering style. Some moms are laid back, like Santini was with Reese. Other moms, like Tursi, are what we call helicopter parents in that they hover over their offspring. In order to do monitor without interrupting natural behaviors and bonding and to make sure we don’t miss anything, we often watch from a tower.
Staff members are also busy baby proofing the lagoons. While Aleta and Merina are currently in the maternity pod in the front lagoon, when it gets closer to having their babies, they will excitedly move to smaller lagoons. A newborn dolphin doesn’t know how to steer or stop, so it spends the first few weeks in its mother’s slip stream. This allows the mom to keep the baby with her as she swims and the baby doesn’t have to expend as much energy. As you can imagine, having to continuously swim in a huge lagoon with eight other curious youngsters would be very tiresome for a new mom, so we try to make it as comfortable as possible by putting them in a smaller area.
Aleta and Merina have spent the past nine months helping to babysit Reese and getting used to having a little one around again. As they get closer to their due dates, they may choose a nanny dolphin to help out with baby sitting or they may decide to take care of the youngster on their own for the first few months. Since each dolphin has their own mothering style, we take our cues from them on how they’d like to raise the little one.
Each passing day, there is so much excitement in the air at DRC. A dolphin’s gestation period is approximately one year, but like us they can have their baby early or late so we’re officially in the final stretch. Aleta and Merina are visibly advanced in their terms, to our eyes at least, and enjoy narrations focused on them and their maternity. They love to show off their growing bellies to the audience and eagerly await the days when they will introduce new family members to the DRC pod.
We cannot wait to tell all of our wonderful members and supporters when the baby dolphins arrive. Stay tuned because it can happen literally any day now!
Posted by The DRC Family at 8:30 AM