A local dolphin facility is touting the success of its breeding program, which has produced several native Atlantic bottle-nose dolphins, including three baby dolphins within the past year. Dolphin Encounters’ breeding program has a survival rate that is greater than many similar programs around the world and greater than the survival rate found in the wild. The facility experienced three births in 2006, one of which represents the second generation of dolphins born at Dolphin Encounters. According to marine mammal experts at Dolphin Encounters, the success of the program is a result of the environment provided and the care received, including veterinary supervision, training, nutrition and the appropriate environment for socialization.
“Dolphin breeding sometimes has uncertain outcomes, but we’ve had tremendous results with our calves, “said Kim Terrell, director of marine mammals at Dolphin Encounters. “Also, the fact that 11 of our 18 dolphins were successfully born to our facility speaks for itself. Dolphin Encounters now has first and second generation dolphins that were born right here on Blue Lagoon Island.”
“One of our baby dolphins, Cacique, is growing-up with his mother, Nina, his grandmother, Chippy and his aunt and also half sister, Gussie Mae.”
Dolphin Encounters is home to 18 dolphins and six California sea lions. Two of the three youngest dolphins were born last year September and a third was born in October. According to Ms. Terrell, all of Dolphin Encounters’ dolphins do regular husbandry exams and have started interactive training.
“When it comes to animals, especially marine mammals, it’s crucial that we are experts in our field. We have a responsible, planned husbandry plan. Our dolphins are healthy, well cared for and regularly checked out. We’ve got the best staff in the world, that works to ensure that the animals get the best possible care,” said Ms. Terrell.
“We’re committed to creating a unique, memorable experience for our guests, but we’re also committed to raising our animals in a healthy, wholesome environment and every day we try to teach people about being socially responsible and caring for marine mammals at our facility and in general.”
Over the past year, Alfonzo Parker, one of the head trainers at Dolphin Encounters has formed a special bond with Gussie Mae, the precocious young dolphin, who was the first of the three calves born last year at the facility.
“I’m always with her, so she’s my baby, and she’s spoiled rotten. It’s cute to see all of the babies playing in the water together. Gussie is a mama’s girl, but she’s also independent,” he said. “She’s very intelligent and catches on pretty fast. For a young dolphin, she’s really quite bright.”
According to Mr. Parker, the dolphins spend most of their day swimming in the lagoon, eating and playing.
“They do exactly what babies do best-play and eat all day,” he said. “When they’re done eating, they play, and once they’ve finished playing – they eat – ain’t life grand?”
“It’s wonderful to watch them grow-up,” said Ms. Terrell. “They play with things found in our natural island lagoon. Cacique loves to play with trumpet fish; Laguna’s favorite thing is playing with crabs and for some reason, Gussie loves playing with coconuts.”