If you’ve been following our newsletter over the past couple of months, you know that Christmas came early for our dolphins and their caregivers in the form of a new floating dock system.
These platforms are central to caring for our dolphins as they allow us to have close access to the animals regardless of our fluctuating tides. Just like children unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, our team was elated to see the docks arrive. After working on the dock project for over 2 years… planning, applying for permits, and fundraising, the dream finally came to fruition.
We knew our team would be excited with the new platforms, especially the new layout. What we didn’t expect was how quickly the animals would adapt to and even seem to LOVE their new “furniture”.
When the docks first arrive, they come in pre-assembled pieces that bolt together to make the complete design. Our docks arrived on a Tuesday afternoon but couldn’t be installed right away. None the less, on Wednesday afternoon the team took an individual piece and used it as enrichment for the dolphins. Two of the trainers boarded the platform with buckets of ice, fish, and Jell-o and floated out into the middle of the lagoon. To our surprise, every single dolphin came over to the platforms to hang out and enjoy an afternoon snack. This was a great sign! But coming over to a 4 x 12 ft piece of dock was probably easier than coming to the platform for a hydration behavior or even to give a blood sample. Only time would tell…
Finally, the time came to install the entire system. The moment we had all been waiting for!
On the first day of installation, we decided to install “Dock B”, which was going to be the biggest change for the dolphins. Dock B is located in our playpen and runs along the dividing fence between the two lagoons. Up until this point, the dolphins had not seen a dock in this location. The team installed the Dock B in its entirety, in a single day! A few days later, the team started the process of installing Dock A in the main lagoon. This process took a bit longer because the new floating docks needed to go in place of the existing docks. So that the project could stay on track, two crews went to work: one bolting together the new platforms and the other dismantling the old docks (Side Note: You would not believe the stench that emanates from platforms that have been floating in ocean water for 20 years! For the first time this year, everyone was actually excited to wear a mask!).
Throughout this entire process, the training team asked the dolphins to come over to the new platforms for a quick snack. At one point, Tug (by far the bravest dolphin with the new docks) even started pushing a trainers foot and helped us get the docks into their new spot. The fact that our dolphins were so easily adjusting to the new platforms proved amazing, and with any luck, we hoped to facilitate the dolphins hydrating from these new docks and accomplishing other healthcare behaviors in no time!
By evening of the second day of installation it was time to ask the dolphins to come over for a session. Our primary goal was for Dinghy, our oldest dolphin, to receive her second hydration of the day. Within 5 minutes, Dinghy voluntarily hydrated two liters of fresh water! We genuinely couldn’t believe how smooth this transition had been. Perhaps the dolphins loved the new docks as much as their trainers?
Over the next few weeks, all of the dolphins easily transitioned to their new platforms. The new AccuDock system has been in for almost a month now and the verdict is in! Trainers and Dolphins both LOVE the new platforms.
The trainers are now able to increase “variability” in their sessions, which means they are able to be much more creative and less predictable in their interactions with the dolphins. The new layout allows the dolphins to interact with their trainers around the entire lagoon and provides much more space for the trainers to stand and move around. Historically, because of the lack of space associated with our previous dock system, our dolphins needed to be paired in two’s and sit next to each other in a session. With the new layout, there is plenty of space for each dolphin to have his or her own station. In the Main Lagoon, the dolphins also now have space behind the platforms, which means they have their own private area to use during interactions, if needed. After observing the animals’ behavior in sessions, the trainers all feel this new layout benefits their day-to-day lives and increases their welfare.
Additionally, we are now able to work on some cool, novel behaviors with the dolphins!
Tug is learning a back dive while B.B., Dinghy, Alfonz, and Bob are all learning a “stage slide” behavior from the new platforms. Additionally, B.B.’s voluntary blood sample behavior has improved thanks to the new platforms! The slight increase in height over the previous platforms seems to make it easier for her to place her flukes on the dock. These are just a few of the benefits we’ve seen in only one month!
Trainers, dolphins, and even guests (that’s right!) have an improved experience with the new platforms. It appears that all of us have an exciting future ahead, thanks to our partners at AccuDock.
AccuDock is a global leader in the design and manufacturing of Floating Docks, and their extensive selection of dock systems is one of the reasons we chose to entrust them with both the design and fabrication of our new floating platforms. Happily, AccuDock decided to partner with DPMMR and donate a portion of the docks, which ultimately allowed us to Improve the lives of our dolphins.
Here are the top reasons why DPMMR recommends AccuDock if you need a floating dock for any reason:
- The docks were quick and easy to install, and extremely customizable, all of which were essential when working with animals.
- The docks are extremely durable. Just weeks after installing, the docks endured the extreme rising tides and winds of Tropical Storm Eta, where they withstood an additional 3-4 foot storm surge with ease.
- The docks are very sleek and aesthetically pleasing.
- The team at AccuDock was incredibly capable and friendly, as well as extremely supportive of DPMMR and our mission.
Check out their amazing inventory at: www.accudock.com
Overall, the humans couldn’t be happier with our decision to move forward with a new AccuDock System and the fact that the dolphins also seem to love the new platforms is the icing on the cake!
Stay tuned to our newsletters, social media, and blogs for more updates on our resident dolphin family.