Alfonz – February is a month of love and Alfonz has been our very own Cupid this month! For the past few weeks, he has been very flirtatious with the other dolphins and has been showing off his best selection of creative behaviors to impress the ladies.
If you remember last month’s “From the Pod,” you know that Alfonz was working on his deep-water program behaviors. This month, he has been participating in these behaviors with guests and is doing a fantastic job. He has also spent a lot of time this month participating in an on-site University of Miami class and helping us teach students how to train animals. This is a semester-long, graduate class that focuses on Marine Mammal Applied Behavior Analysis and Managed Care for the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). So far, Alfonz has been a star student and seems to truly enjoy training the humans.
Baby Bit (B.B.) –B.B. has had a quieter-than-normal month as the vet team and trainers worked to treat a possible eye infection. Luckily, we caught the signs early and were able to consult with a veterinary ophthalmologist to establish a treatment plan. In order to effectively treat her eye, her trainers had to ask B.B. to lay on her side while they administered 3 sets of eye drops - three times daily (no easy task).
To accomplish this lofty goal, the trainers had to make sure the behavior of laying on her side was extremely reinforcing and had to get creative with their training in order to make the behavior fun for her. We’re happy to report her eyes are looking much better and she is back to her spunky self! Additionally, BB participated in two blood samples during February and did great for both! She is becoming quite the “Rockstar” for husbandry behaviors.
Bob – Not much has changed with Bob this month, outside of his recent participation in the deep-water program “Connect to Protect.” Back in January, Bob’s trainers focused on re-training some of his deep-water programs so that he and Alfonz could participate in another type of program other than our shallow water program. Both boys have done an excellent job and seem to really enjoy the variability these behaviors add to their day.
Additionally, Bob has recently made some huge progress on his voluntary beach behavior. In last month’s “From the Pod” we talked about how Bob can be nervous around the mechanical lift/platform area from time to time. Naturally, this makes his beach behavior a bit more challenging than some other behaviors. Nonetheless, Bob can consistently slide out of the water onto a padded platform, between a team of 6 people, while remaining calm. Eventually (hopefully not too far into the future) Bob will beach out of the water and go on a field-trip for a CT scan. These scans are one of the most valuable diagnostic tools we have for the animals, and are especially important for Bob as he ages.
Dinghy – Dinghy is doing fantastic this month and just seems to be in an overall great place. Dinghy gave another fasted blood sample this month, with ease, and is nailing all of her other husbandry/healthcare behaviors.
Her training team has focused their attention on improving two of Dinghy’s guest program behaviors. During the “Splash Fight” and “Singing & Dancing” behaviors, Ding is pointed out to the guests and then is asked to mimic whatever they are doing. If they splash, she splashes. If they spin in a circle, she spins in a circle. These mimicry behaviors are great stimulation for Dinghy, but she has only been participating in them for a brief time. For now, the training team is concentrating on encouraging Dinghy to offer these behaviors for the same duration of time as the guests do. She’s making some progress, but in true Dinghy fashion… she seems to be training us instead of the other way around. ;)\
Jessica’s biggest accomplishment this month was completing her “Up/Down” behavior with guests. Great job to both Jessica and her trainer, Cristina, for completing this behavior to the point it can be demonstrated with our guests! Jessica also continues to make strides with allowing her son, Jett, to work independently. Although she always has a watchful eye on her son, she seems much more relaxed when he is working with other trainers or at the other side of the pool.
Just like most human four year olds – Jett is working on learning to share with the other dolphins in the pool. This month he has spent much of his time working with Dani and Luke on learning this skill. Jett finds working with guests very reinforcing and enjoys doing behaviors in very close proximity with the guests. While this is fantastic, it is important that Jett learns how to share and allows other dolphins to also do these behaviors with guests. Our training plan seems to be working and Jett has made a lot of progress in this area this month. One thing he enjoys is that he getting a trainer all to himself, so all of the attention is on him! If you’ve met Jett, then you know just how big of a ham he can be!
With all this one-on-one time, Jett was able to learn a back dive and can now easily differentiate between a back dive and a forward bow (a hard task for most four-year-old dolphins)!
For the month of February, Tug has been a “honor roll student” and if we could give him a report card, it would have all A’s. He has spent a lot of time running program with his mom, Dinghy, and has been incredibly patient with her. He has learned a few new interaction behaviors and continues to make progress on his voluntary beach behavior. Last month we mentioned that he had learned a back dive, but was having trouble consistently entering the water headfirst. Well, in only a few short weeks – he has accomplished this goal and now can do a perfect back dive every time he is asked.
This month, Tug completed one of his first “Fasted Gastric Samples.” This husbandry behavior appears similar to their daily hydration behavior and involves collecting stomach juice in a voluntary manner, in order to monitor Tug’s digestive health and digestion. Turns out, both Tug and the sample he allowed us to collect were absolutely perfect.
It is truly amazing watching Tug grow and develop each month, as he never ceases to amaze his training team with what he can accomplish in such a short time.