If you have visited DPMMR or follow our social media channels, you have probably met our 26 year-old, male, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Alfonz.
Alfonz is loved by many and is particularly known among his trainers for his undeniable charisma.
Here are 7 unique things about Alfonz that you might not know:
- He was the first baby dolphin born at DPMMR (at the time, Dolphins Plus) back in 1993.
On July, 25, 1993, Alfonz entered the world... and let's just say the world hasn't been the same since. He was the first successful dolphin birth in Dolphins Plus history and has sired four baby dolphins himself during his 26 years.
- Alfonz is named after his father, Fonzie!
Fonzie was one of the original resident dolphins at our facility and is Alfonz' namesake. Fonzie was notably goofy, great at interacting with people, and known as the "big man on campus," all traits that live on in his son.
- Most new trainers begin their training lessons with Alfonz.
When a new trainer is hired at DPMMR on the Animal Care Team, they experience a 6 month, intensive, one-on-one training before they are 'cleared' to interact with our guests and animals. This training typically starts off with Alfonz, as he is very patient and is an excellent teacher.
- Alfonz seems to really enjoy cooperative behaviors with his trainers in the water.
Everything we do with the animals is dependent upon establishing strong relationships with each animal and discovering what they find reinforcing. Two of Alfonz's favorite reinforcers are learning new behaviors and spending time with his trainers in the water. Recently, Alfonz has learned a variety of 'cooperative behaviors' with his trainers where the pair must work together in order for the behavior to succeed. He seems to really enjoy this teamwork and gets very excited when he accomplishes these tasks. (Alfonz also LOVES to have multiple trainers in the water with him at the same time. More trainers = more back rubs for Alfonz)
- And the award for the most 'creative' dolphin at DPMMR goes to ... Alfonz.
Alfonz knows the 'create' behavior. During this behavior, the trainer delivers a hand signal that asks Alfonz "What do you want to do?" Alfonz then executes any behavior he chooses. The only rule is, he can't repeat the same behavior during a session. (There's a scientific study that describes it in more detail here. )
Oftentimes even when trainers aren't asking Alfonz to 'create' he takes the liberty to create on his own... sometimes entirely new behaviors. His creative flare adds variety to each training session.
- Alfonz knows more 'aerial' behaviors and 'vocalizations' than any other single dolphin at DPMMR.
Aerial behaviors refer to any behavior where the dolphin's body leaves the water. Alfonz knows a forward bow (jump), a backwards bow, a vertical jump, a vertical spin jump, a side breach, porps, and he recently learned a somersault. With 7 different aerial behaviors, Alfonz is definitely one of our most athletic dolphins.
Additionally, Alfonz knows more hand signals that correlate with specific vocalizations than any of the other animals at DPMMR.
- Alfonz has a small hole in his pec fin.
Alfonz has a small hole in his right pectoral flipper, a signature mark he has had his entire life. The tiny hole causes no harm to Alfonz and is simply a unique trait. You could say it's his "Beauty Mark."
We could write a list a mile long of all the things that make Alfonz, well....., Alfonz. However, our list could never take the place of getting to meet this handsome dolphin in person.
If you have met Alfonz already, leave a comment below! If you haven't met Alfonz yet, check out one of our many dolphin interaction programs here or stop by soon for a visit!