Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Windley Makes Waves

Each day is a milestone in a young dolphin’s life. From their first breath to realizing there’s a world outside of the water, those of us who work with them are blessed to witness many of life’s small experiences. The two most recent additions to the DRC family have made huge strides over the past six months, especially Merina’s little girl Windley.

Can you see Windley's teeny tiny flipper waving hello!? So cute!!
From the start, Windley has followed in the flukeprints of her mother and older siblings by mirroring their exuberance for life. While her six day older cousin, Diva, has stuck close to mom and abided by Aleta’s rules, Windley has proven to be an independent counterpart to Merina’s laidback parenting style.

By watching her mother take part in sessions, Windley has taken major steps to show off how quickly she tries new things. Just the other day, a cameraman came by the lagoon and Windley kept one eye  on him the entire time.  Windley came up in front of  the camera and began to spit, something she could have only picked up from watching her mom or aunt. Then when she was waved to, she picked up her tiny pectoral flipper and did a mild wave back.  Her mom, who has always showed a real interest in cameras herself, proudly swam around as her daughter showed off.

Neither Windley nor Diva has started formal training yet. Everything they pick up is from watching their moms participate in sessions with their trainers and guests. From imitates to dorsal tows, the little girls are gaining first-fin experience in the fine art of heart stealing from their amazing moms.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Talon gets a Little Fishy

A big, athletic, guy, Talon needs lots of energy to do high flying behaviors like this.

All of the dolphins and sea lions at DRC are fed restaurant quality fish. That means that you or I could walk into the fish house, pick out a herring, capelin or smelt and fry it up to eat ourselves. The dolphins basically have several catered five star meals a day, that are individualized based on their age, weight, dietary needs and other considerations.

Since there is no behind the scenes at our facility, we like to show our guests what exactly is in the dolphins’ buckets. After all, guests and members help us provide such excellent care for all of our family members so it makes sense to show them what their contribution goes towards. However, Talon, who must really been in the mood for breakfast, decided to take matters into his own flippers.

As one of our narrators explained the variety in Talon’s bucket, his trainer thought it would be nice of him to show off his fish to the crowd. She put a yummy snack in his mouth, and then asked him to strut with it. While he swam alongside the causeway to give visitors an up close and personal view of his meal, he also very slowly and sneakily began to maneuver the fish down. It reached his tongue and then, with a gulp, was swallowed right down the hatch.

When he got back to the dock, his trainer asked where the fish had gone. Talon let out a sly giggle. Our guests laughed along with the big boy. His trainer then sent Talon on a big dive and rewarded him with a big, juicy herring. There was no way he was going to show that off either. It was swallowed right away and the session continued.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Put a Ring On It

Beautiful Tursi loves to be the center of attention.

As the two most mature females here at Dolphin Research Center, Molly and Tursi have a lot of life experience, especially when it comes to flirting with guys. The ladies love their men and are known to be much more enthusiastic when interacting with good looking guys. During a Dolphin Encounter, not only did the two have a flirt-off but they went above and beyond to get some male attention.

They have two different flirting styles, but they each worked in their own way. Tursi took a more flippers-on approach with the handsome guy in the water. She volunteered herself for every kiss, handshake and backrub in the program. Molly, who is a bit less tactile than her friend, swam off on several occasions to pop up nearby and giggle or wave hello.

For the signal portion of the swim, the young man asked Tursi for a present. Off she swam, intently looking for the ideal souvenir for her new friend. She searched far and wide, scanning the surface of the water to see if there was a perfect leaf or mangrove pod, and then diving deep to the bottom of the lagoon to look for any hidden treasures.

As she came out of the water for a quick breath before returning to the dock with a prized possession, a long lost dive ring. However, as she came out of the water it fell off her rostrum and sunk back to the bottom of the lagoon She had accidently lost the present! Tursi went up to the man and insisted she had a gift on her rostrum. Her trainer and the swimmers told her she’d lost what she was carrying but she refused to listen. Then, out of no where, Molly popped up between Tursi and her new beau with a dive ring. Tursi did a double take. She realized that her present had actually fallen off and now Molly was getting the credit of coming up with such a fantastic keepsake. Luckily, the swimmer saw the entire thing take place and thanked Tursi for finding such a unique gift and Molly for ensuring he got the toy that her friend had searched long and hard for. They each got a kiss on the rostrum and a high five.

Not only did the swimmer have a great time getting so much one on one attention from the two oldest ladies at DRC, but they also won the heart of his girlfriend who was in the swim too. A proud DRC member, and adoptive Molly parent, she now enjoys telling this adorable story about how two dolphins tried to put a ring on her boyfriend’s finger!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Luna Steals the Spotlight

Luna has a sweet gracefulness about her.
As the youngest female dolphin living in the front lagoon, Luna seems to have defined her place. She plays rough with the juvenile boys and still stays in the loop with the older girls.   This once shy little girl is now a blossoming young lady full of spunk and independence. This was evident on a Dolphin Encounter, when her mother, Pandora, did not want to gate into the lagoon for the program. Since we do everything on dolphin time and choice, this allowed Luna to swim up to the plate and show us just how grown up she’s become.

Not only did she steal the spotlight by making every swimmer fall in love with her charm and grace, but she also showed her mother that she could do every behavior. Luna excitedly did every kiss, handshake, imitation and signal on her own. She even did several dorsal tows all by herself too!

Pandora peered at her daughter from the neighboring lagoon and it seems like Luna coerced her into taking part in the fun for the dorsal pull. Pandora screamed at one of the trainers until she was let into the lagoon. Once she swam with a few guests, she was more than happy to leave the others in her capable daughter’s flippers. She then asked to be gated back out again.

After the session ended, Luna and Pandora gabbed about what had happened. We can only imagine the pride Pandora had in her sweet little munchkin. As a free thinking dolphin, maybe it was Pandora’s way of pushing her daughter to venture a bit more towards self-sufficiency.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Jax Trains his Crowd

Jax's trainer, Christina, decided to bring the handsome dolphin over the causeway for guests to get up close and personal.
Next to humans, dolphins are the best imitators in the animal kingdom. However, they’re more than just great imitators, they’re also great trainers themselves. Many times during sessions, we have to be careful that we’re not the ones being trained by the dolphins! It can be something tiny, like them backing away from a tray and luring us to reach out further to do a handshake, or something more, such as when they aren’t interested in hanging out and leave the dock entirely. During a Fun Facts session, Jax’s trainer Christina took Jax over to the rocks at the edge of his lagoon to get the crowd involved in the session and Jax showed them just how easy it is to train us silly humans.

The first thing Christina asked Jax to do was pay attention to her, by stationing him. All of the trainers do this by lifting their index finger into the air to indicate that they’re going to share information. Then, she asked him to imitate the crowd by giving him the “imitate” signal, which looks like karate chop. She had already told the crowd to wave at Jax to see if he’d do it back. After a few brief seconds of watching the group of guests, Jax rolled onto his side and began to wave enthusiastically. Christina blew the whistle and then took Jax further down the causeway to get a school group involved in the fun.

Next on Christina’s list was to ask the kids to spin in a circle. As she gave Jax the imitate signal, he took a brief look at them and then rolled onto his side again. He waved his little flipper until the crowd began to wave back. Can you blame them? Who wouldn’t want to wave back at a dolphin as handsome as Jax? His trainer asked if he was being silly, to which the little booger replied with a raspberry sound. One more time, Jax was asked to pay attention to the visitors and imitate what they did. It seems like the little squirt had his heart set on doing the wave because he raised his flipper and strutted down the lagoon, making sure to give everyone a hello.

Dolphins are unbelievably smart animals and it makes sense they’d show off their smarts whenever possible. After all, no matter what they do they’re awe inspiring. Jax showed everyone watching why we always say the dolphins are the bosses here at DRC. Whatever they’ve got in their minds for the day is often as fun as what we had planned anyways!