Dolphin Encounters Staff Care for and Train the Animal Life at the Facility
Animal husbandry incorporates all the methods and practices used to monitor the health of an animal living under human care. DE's staff employs a structured routine to maintain the health of all Bahamas animal life at the facility through medical examination and constant observation. All of our work with the animals is then recorded on computers for easy reference and long-term tracking.
We obtain voluntary fecal and stomach samples from our animals on a regular basis, in addition to milk samples from nursing mothers. Blood samples, however, are by far the most important part of our bottlenose dolphin husbandry repertoire.
Laboratory testing of mammalian blood allows for the early detection of illness. The creation of a blood profile with each sample helps us to notice any inconsistencies from one quarter to the next (blood samples are taken from each animal four times a year, unless otherwise necessary).
When a sample is taken, blood is drawn from the underside of the dolphin's tail fluke. All of our animals are trained a 'fluke presentation', that involves presenting their tail to a trainer for temporary holding. A second trainer, a manger or supervisor of animal training, performs the actual procedure of inserting the needle and drawing the blood while the animal remains calm.
Another valuable tool of husbandry is ultrasound. Several senior trainers have received training as ultrasound technicians and can scan any of the animals for normal internal anatomy images. This is very helpful for establishing norms for each animal so that if any changes occur, possible illness can be quickly detected and treated. Ultrasound images are very useful for not only viewing the fetus of a pregnant dolphin but also for determining the optimum time for mating female dolphins.
All of our husbandry behaviors are voluntary on the part of the animals, and are trained with the same tools as our other behaviors. The animal life at their Bahamas facility actually co-operate in allowing the trainers to obtain the samples that they need.
Our veterinarian visits the island four times each year to perform a visual 'check up' on the bottlenose dolphins and their habitats. He sees each dolphin and sea lion through a routine physical, accompanied by the primary trainer. In addition, our vet can see images sent to him via email to diagnose and treat any ailments from abroad.