From the Pod …
Alfonz – Due to our normal September “slow season”, Alfonz now enjoys a lot more free time and spends that free time working on his “Belly Breach” behavior. He began learning this behavior in the beginning of the year and has made serious progress in the last couple of weeks. Previously, Alfonz would only “flop” forward on his belly. However, he now understands how to come all the way out of the water and lift his tail flukes. This aspect of the behavior creates a beautiful “pose” while Alfonz is in the air before coming back down for the breach.
Additionally, Alfonz is gearing up to participate in a research project known as “create.” For this cognitive study, Alfonz will be asked to perform any behavior he would like to do multiple times in a row. The only rule is that Alfonz cannot repeat any of the behaviors he has previously offered. For Alfonz, this is a fun game, and for researchers, it is a creative way (no pun intended) to test the memory of the dolphins. We’re looking forward to seeing how creative Alfonz can be!
Baby-bit (B.B.) - “Cheers to 10 Years!” B.B. recently turned 10 years old! In celebration, her trainers threw her a “birthday party”, which consisted of her favorite enrichment and a special “cake” made from ice and Jell-O, some of B.B.’s favorite treats! After the celebration, the team showered B.B. with 10 pool noodles for her to enjoy, which she quickly hopped on top of for a nice afternoon float. Pool noodles happen to be one of her favorite toys to interact with, and very often we see B.B. lounging on top of a noodle or towing one around the pool on her pectoral or dorsal fins. In fact, B.B. seems to like her noodle toys so much that she will “hide” them under the docks from her trainers at the end of the day and then bring them out in the early evenings to continue interacting with them when no one is around. She really is a smart girl!
Bob - Bob is known as our “ladies man” and spent a lot of his free time this month “showing off” for the ladies in the adjacent pool. Nonetheless, he found time to work on a behavior we call “Zippers.” During this behavior, Bob is asked to do small backwards jumps around the perimeter of the pool. Recently, Bob had a “light bulb” moment with his training and is now consistently offering the behavior around the full perimeter of the lagoon, with help from his trainers. You can tell in the video just how engaged Bob is when he is working on this behavior. Keep up the good work, Bob!
Dinghy - Over the summer, the animal care and veterinary teams treated Dinghy for an acute injury on her rostrum with topical treatments and cold laser therapy. Now we are happy to report that these therapies have worked well and her injury is almost completely healed! Recently, veterinarians performed a routine and voluntary scope procedure to examine Ding’s stomach lining and check for ulceration. Happily, Dinghy has no signs of ulcers and her blood values look great. We couldn’t be happier with Ding’s overall health, especially given her geriatric age.
In the past couple of weeks, Dinghy has learned to “plank” (or lift her tail out of the water) while she is lying on top of a digital scale. Historically, she beached onto the scale with no problem, but her tail remained in the water, affecting the accuracy of the weight. Now that she knows to lift her tail slightly out of the water, all of her weight is placed on the scale and we can monitor fluctuations in her weight much more consistently. Have you ever heard the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well, Dinghy’s training team SHATTERS this misconception each month as they continue to teach her new behaviors, which allow us the ability to provide her with excellent care in her old age.
Jessica - Like Dinghy, Jessica is making progress on her beach behavior with the goal of being able to obtain a weight on Jessica in the near future. Furthermore, Jessica also made progress on allowing her son, Jett, to participate in the beaching or slide-out activity. Being the protective mom that she is, Jessica will sometimes prevent Jett from participating in routine training activities. Jessica’s trainers are currently focusing on reinforcing Jessica when she allows Jett to beach, and apparently their work is paying off. Recently, it seems Jessica is beginning to trust that Jett will be just fine when he is beaching, which is important for his husbandry and care.
Jett - Jett, like most kids across America who started back to school last month, is busy learning many new behaviors. Jett is almost finished learning his “Vertical” behavior, where he jumps straight out of the water and remains vertical while falling back to the water, flukes first. This behavior challenged Jett, as he is not yet the most athletic dolphin in our family. However, Jett loves to learn… so teaching him this behavior allowed the trainers to foster exercise and muscle development in a way in which Jett finds engaging. Additionally, Jett has nearly completed “Shark Thrash,” “Moving Hi-5,” and “Moving Air Rub” behaviors, which will be incorporated into guest interaction programs.
In addition, Jett’s animal care team is teaching Jett to eat larger types of fish. You might be thinking, “Why do you have to teach a dolphin to eat fish”? Well, sometimes we have to teach the dolphins to eat a specific fish species to complete a nutritious diet - much like teaching a kid to eat broccoli. Sometimes when Jett is fed a larger fish, he would rather play with it, than eat it… but through training we have recently encouraged Jett to consume over 7 pounds of fish each day! This is a big goal for a 4-year-old dolphin, especially given the fact that Jett still nurses milk from his mom throughout the day as well!
Tug - Tug is making serious progress on learning a cognitive behavior called “Wait and Go.” During this behavior, the trainer asks Tug to wait in one position and shows Tug a hand signal that correlates with a specific behavior. Then, Tug must remember the behavior that was asked of him and wait for the trainer to signal “Go” before Tug can execute that specific behavior. Tug seems to really enjoy learning this behavior and in the past month has started to understand the concept of the behavior. This means, he beginning to understand that regardless of what specific behavior is asked, he should wait until the trainer signals “go” to do the behavior. Learning this is not only great fun for Tug, but is a stepping stone to more advanced cognitive behaviors that will help the research team answer questions about dolphin intelligence.
In addition to learning his cool new cognitive behavior, Tug also made further progress on his slide out behavior and recently weighed in at just over 270 pounds. That’s pretty big for a 4 year old!