Alfonz - Alfonz continues to be the "big man on campus" and continues to work on learning a new "belly breach" behavior with Kayla. This month, he stayed busy interacting with our locals in the Florida Keys, celebrating our "Local Love" month with $50 swims for Monroe County residents. In an effort to provide variety and mental stimulation for Alfonz, this month the trainers decided to put a creative spin on how we run the Splash & Wade program, which Alfonz participates in almost daily. Instead of simply running the program from the platform, trainers jumped on Kayaks, rafts, and even into the water to conduct the program, which Alfonz seemed to adore!
Alfonz also enjoyed all of the new toy balls that fans have sent in this month and can quite frequently be seen tossing a ball around his habitat.
Baby-Bit - In other news, B.B. celebrated her 9th birthday this month! The trainers honored this special day by creating an "Ice Cake" for B.B., which is a giant block of ice with decorations on top. Upon first glimpse at the cake, B.B. quickly swam over to the platform to investigate, as the trainers and some lucky guests serenaded her with "Happy Birthday".
Until recently, B.B. demonstrated patience with her younger brothers. However, this month, she decided to exercise her role as big sister and exert dominance over them. Dolphins are incredibly social animals and the social structure and social hierarchy is constantly changing. This means that the social behavior we see from B.B. is completely normal and has made for interesting training sessions as we learn more about their relationships within and amongst the pod.
Bob - Bob is still as handsome as ever and is currently learning a new behavior called "zippers", which is a high-energy behavior where Bob performs very small back dives all around the perimeter of the lagoon. Working on this behavior engages Bob during session and also serves as physical exercise to keep Bob in optimal shape. You should hear the vocalizations Bob makes when he makes progress with this behavior!! Stay tuned, and we will try to include some footage of this behavior (and his adorable/excited vocalizations) for next month's update!
Dinghy- If you remember from last month, the DPMMR veterinary team was treating Dinghy's eye with antibiotic drops and we are proud to report that her eye is doing much better! Although her eye condition isn't 100% back to normal, the trainers and vets are encouraged by her recent improvements. Although she is our oldest dolphin, she constantly proves to us that age is nothing but a number, as her spirit is younger than ever these days and her sense of humor?..... it's honestly larger than life.
Jessica- This month, Jessica spent a fair amount of time working with B.B. and met a plethora of new locals during this month's locals special. As one of our most attentive dolphin mothers, Jessica remains on constant alert as to the location and behavior of her calf, Jett. This "protective mom" attribute can be challenging for trainers to work with, as exemplified when Jessica prevents Jett from learning new behaviors that she deems "unsafe". She can do this by blocking Jett from certain areas of the lagoon, preventing him from stationing with his trainer, tucking him underneath her body, putting him in a dolphin "time out" (yes, there is a dolphin time out), and also by displacing him from certain areas of the lagoon. Recently, trainers report that because they have heavily reinforced Jessica for allowing Jett to learn new program behaviors, both Jessica and Jett have made giant strides in this area!
Jett- During the month of September, Jett frequently participated in training and interactive sessions with his brother Tug, and learned several new behaviors. Jett seems to learn more efficiently when paired with other dolphins and by watching them perform a novel behavior. This method of learning is called observational learning, where Jett closely watches the behaviors other dolphins are offering and learns to mimic them. One of the most recent behaviors he has learned via this method is a "crowd splash", where he lays on his side and uses his tail flukes to splash guests on the side of the lagoon. Jett has learned this behavior solely by watching his roommates Tug and B.B. offer the behavior after sessions. He is one smart cookie and never ceases to amaze us!
Tug- For anyone who has met Tug, you know he has one speed.... FAST! Thus, this month, his training team reinforced Tug for some of the slower, more calm behaviors. This seems to be paying off, as one of Tug's favorite behaviors to do right now is the "Cradle", where he lays in the guest's arms for a hug. The trainers all love Tug's electric energy (think about the energy a 4-year old child has), but it's important for Tug to be able to slow down and balance his energy throughout sessions, as well.
Tug is also celebrating a Birthday this month, turning 4 Years Old! On the morning that Tug was born, our entire staff transported another dolphin for a routine CT scan... which is an exciting procedure in itself. About 5 minutes after we returned, Dinghy went into labor and the whole staff was able to witness his incredible birth. What a fantastic 4 years we've had with this not-so-little guy.