Thursday, March 5, 2015

Louie Laughs

The dolphins constantly awe us with their amazing athletic abilities. They can dive, breach and back tail walk across the lagoons. However, among the most memorable behaviors we hear our guests talk about are their vocalizations. During narrations, we tell our guests the anecdote about how the dolphins learned to giggle. One dolphin imitated a trainer who had a very enthusiastic laugh and the rest is history.

While the DRC dolphins are extremely vocal, it’s interesting to note that we cannot teach them those noises. The dolphins learn them by copying their moms or peers. Once they begin to do them, the trainers capture them by pairing them with the designated signals. After some time, the dolphins correlate the signals to the behaviors.  In the giggle, for example,  we can put our hand up to our ears and the dolphins make an exaggerated “ha ha ha ha” sound.

Louie is currently working on this behavior. With the help of his friend, Delta, who already knows how to laugh, Lou is slowly understanding the concept. As a very literal dolphin, it’s interesting that Louie understands that he should make a noise when he sees the signal. He just hasn’t figured out that the vocalization should be “ha ha”. When he’s shown the signal, Louie will talk, scream, buzz or whistle. So we ask Delta to do the correct noise in hopes that Louie will imitate his best bud.
Each dolphin learns at his or her own pace, so this is something we are gradually teaching Louie. Each session we go a bit further to see if he understands what we’re asking him to do. As each dolphin has their own unique voice, we cannot wait to hear what Louie’s laugh sounds like!