Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island became the first member of the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA) to receive accreditation for their animal trainer program. Announced recently during IMATA’s annual conference held in Atlanta Georgia and hosted by the Georgia Aquarium, the Bahamian marine mammal facility’s animal trainer program was recognized for its exceptionally high standards and practices.
“IMATA represents nearly 250 marine mammal training programs around the world; certainly to be the first one accredited is impressive,” said William Hurley, Accreditation Commission Chair for the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association and Senior Vice President and Chief Animal Officer of the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. “Dolphin Encounters was the first organization to have the opportunity to undergo this new process during a joint accreditation with the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. During the inspection, two individuals from the United States with extensive backgrounds in inspecting marine mammal programs took several days to analyze processes as well as interview staff members at Dolphin Encounters. What they found through the inspection was that not only did Dolphin Encounters meet all standards for both the Alliance as well as IMATA, but they exceeded IMATA’s expectations. The inspectors were absolutely impressed by the level of quality of work as well as the talent of staff that Dolphin Encounters has. Without reservation the inspection team made the recommendation to IMATA’s Board of Directors to endorse Dolphin Encounters as the first accredited animal trainer development program in our association.”
For nearly a decade, the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association has been working diligently on its creation of the trainer development program and a process to accredit those facilities that demonstrate exceptional programs with their trainers and their animal training.
Inspectors visited Dolphin Encounters several months ago for a thorough inspection with particular emphasis on the training given to animal trainers, the methods used and the ability of animal training staff to maintain the guidelines they learned while working with the animals.
“The Animal Trainer Development Plan at Dolphin Encounters is really unique because of our multi-faceted approach in preparing a person to work as a trainer,” said Annette Dempsey, Director of Education for Dolphin Encounters and Assistant Marine Mammal Director. “The formal training seminar is held outdoors, full of distractions that help teach a student learn to focus much like they would need to do in animal interactive programs. The seminar creates a solid foundation that all the trainers have in order to communicate their ideas and create new behaviors. Secondly, the hands-on training in the Husbandry and Shadow Training levels build relationships with the animals and develop problem-solving skills. And finally, trainers have to master education skills, for both orientations and animal programs, in order to earn their Animal Trainer Certification. It is a very involved and detailed process that is unique to our facility.”
“We know we have an exceptional staff, and the quality of animal training at Dolphin Encounters is as high, or higher, than any other facility I’ve seen in the world,” adds Kim Terrell, Marine Mammal Director at Dolphin Encounters. “It makes me proud that the superior staff and training methods we teach at Dolphin Encounters have been recognized and received the first accreditation of an animal training program in the world. It is an impressive achievement.”
“We are honoured and incredibly proud to be the first facility in the world to receive accreditation for our animal trainer program,” said Robert Meister, Managing Director of Dolphin Encounters. “Our goal from the company’s beginning has been to hire and train Bahamians in a marine career that involves a very specialized skill set. We have always trained on-site with the highest standards and practices. Receiving our accreditation from our esteemed colleagues from the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association confirms that our methods and our Bahamian staff are among the best in the world in our industry.”
The International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association was founded to foster communication, professionalism, and cooperation among those who serve marine mammal science through training, public display, research, husbandry, conservation, and education. To learn more about IMATA visitwww.IMATA.org.
Since 1989, Dolphin Encounters, located on idyllic Blue Lagoon Island just three miles off Nassau, has offered visitors from around the world a unique opportunity to interact with friendly marine mammals in an unparalleled all-natural marine habitat.
Today, it is without question, one of Nassau’s foremost tourist attractions. Dolphin Encounters at Blue Lagoon Island, which is owned and operated by a local family, continues to offer visitors new, educational and entertaining ways to meet and learn about marine mammals.