In the Florida Keys and a Winter and Hope Update


Here's a kiss to the Keys saying "This is the life".

Here’s a kiss to the Keys saying “This is the life”.

Hey there everyone,

This is Jenna writing finally, after a while. I have been very busy lately due to online college work and my current internship at a Theater of the Sea in Islamorada, FL which has slowed me down a lot recently to the point where I no longer had anytime to blog about my experiences. So, now that my finals for the semester are out of the way, I can finally get to blog about how things have been going down here in the Florida Keys.

Theater of the Sea

I personally love my internship at Theater of the Sea. So, far, I have had the best five weeks of my life getting my foot in the animal training field through some hands-on experience with the dolphins, sea lions, and rays at the park. So far, I have done some water-work training sessions with the dolphins and a sea lion named Bella as well as a couple of feeding sessions here and there with the sting rays at stingray beach. In addition, I have been assisting a lot with getting music ready for the shows and picking out volunteers to meet the animals up-close in person. Some of these people have even asked me to picked them to meet the animals too like this one grandmother from France who came to the Keys with her young grandson because he wanted to see a dolphin. When she came up to me, I was so touched by her story how it was her grandson’s dream to meet a real dolphin that I had to pick him to meet one and so, after I fulfilled his wish, I picked him for a second time to toss rings to Wilbur the sea lion and believe me, he wowed the crowed by throwing the ring from a far distance. It felt so good granting some kid his life-long wish because this is the kind of stuff that most people may never get the chance to do and also, it was Christmas and I was taught for a long time that Christmas is not really about the presents you get under the Christmas tree, it’s more about caring for those who really want to be cared for.

Winter had been paired with Hope (Photo by Bay News 9)

Winter had been paired with Hope (Photo by Bay News 9)

Winter has Finally been Paired with Hope

With a lot of delight, I am very happy to day that Tampa Bay’s Bay News 9 has confirmed that Winter the dolphin has finally been paired with Hope almost one year after Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s youngest bottlenose dolphin was first moved to the Winter Zone from the Dolphin Zone where she had been residing since the winter of 2011. The CMA staff is reporting that Winter and Hope have been getting along very well and the introduction has been a huge success. Congrats to Winter and Hope and a very successful introduction.

Theater of the Sea Family Portrait

Theater of the Sea Family Portrait

Back to Life in the Keys….

Since my internship is a paid one, I have decided that I will be using all my current paychecks to pay to have my SCUBA lessons be done down here in Key Largo since I found out that it’s very expensive to get certified up north while it’s cheaper down here. Plus, I have always wanted to go scuba diving in Florida’s coral reefs  and see the ship wrecks that are down there. This would mean I would have stay in the Keys long after my internship ends and that would also mean finding a job down here too so that I would be able to help pay for the condo my mother and I are renting at the Moon Bay condominiums in Key Largo.  I am so glad that I’m spending the holidays in paradise because I don’t have to worry too much about the cold weather. Any way, I hope you all are having a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas everyone,

~Jenna~

Merry Christmas from the Florida Keys.

Merry Christmas from the Florida Keys.

 

Beach Cleaning in Indian Rocks Beach, FL


I hate when beach goers dump their garbage around the beach because then animals will mistaken it for either food or a toy and it could kill them. Yet, every time I walk on the beach and find garbage, I pick it up and throw it in the nearest garbage bin I can find around there. I actually filmed this myself picking up all the marine debris in all hopes it would bring awareness to the effects that marine pollution can have on animals like death by ingestion or entanglement and if you think that I’m just exaggerating, then you may want to check out the statistics.

The Statistics speak for itself.

However, it is never too late to save marine life from the hazards entanglement brings to  them. Here are a few things you can do to prevent marine pollution.

1. Never leave trash behind at the beach.

2. If you spot some trash on the beach, be sure you pick it up and trow it away in a nearby garbage can. In addition, you can always use an unused plastic bag in your possession to do some additional cleaning.

3. Take part in annual beach clean ups.

4. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

5. If you see a sick or injured animal, please call wildlife authorities right away.

This trash can is where garbage belongs. You can find these garbage cans at your local beach so it can be easier for you to reduce littering that normally occurs there.

Amazing Marine Mammals: Narwhal


The narwhal has longed been linked with the mythical unicorn for centuries due to it’s long spiral tusks. (Photo is public domain).

The narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is regarded as one of most complelling animals of arctic because of the remoteness and harshness of their frozen envrionment as well as their unsual apperance. For centuries, they have long been linked with mythical unicorns because of the fact that adult males have long spiral tusks that were unlike any other animal in nature that have ever existed. In fact, during the Middle Ages, traders and chemists alike have long been said to have conspired to cover up the existence of the arctic whale in order to sell the tusks off as “unicorn horns” for profit. Today, this marine mammal is no longer linked to mythical horned horse and has no become the subject of many field studies that aim at understanding the lives of narwhals year round.

Narwhals have short rounded heads with no beaks while their melons being bluff, protuding foward of the small upturned mouth. (Artwork by Science Photo Library).

Being one of two members of the Monodontidae family which the beluga whale is also part of, narwhals looks a little bit like belugas except, they are a little bit different from them. For example, adult narwhals have strongly conevexed flukes that are similar to that of butterfly wings while their small flippers short and broad. However, what makes narawhals very unique as a species of whale is the fact that they are the only cetacean species on Earth to lack functional teeth inside their jaws. In addition, starting at three years of age, male narwhals begin to develop their tusks which can grow up to 9 feet long and weight up to 22 pounds. Females on the other hand, remain tuskless for life. Unlike beluga whales which are completely white at adulthood, adult animals are always spotted with a black and white dorsal coloration although calves are born completely grey. Anyway, males can grow up to 15 feet long and weight in at 3.500 pounds while females weight in at around 14 feet long and weight in at 2,200 pounds. The ancesctors of modern day mondotiades, which includes both the narwhal and beluga first appeared in the fossil record around 3-5 million years ago though little is known about the evolution of this species of whale.

Narwhals are only found exclusively in the Arctic.

Narwhals have a dicontinuous distribution within the high Arctic region. However, they are commonly found in deep waters that branch northward from the North Atlantic basin which includes northwestern Hudson Bay, the Hudson Strait, Foxe Basin, Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, and Lancaster Sound. However, they often found in the Greenland Sea in which a population in that area has been known to mirgrate to the northern Barents Sea. Yet, their migrations are turned to the formation and movement of sea ice because as the ice breaks apart in the spring, hundreds of narwhals follow receding edges of pack ice and use the small cracks and melt holes to penetrate deep sounds and fjords right away. There, they will reside there throughout the summer and early fall while heading to offshore areas during the winter months.

Narwhals are the only know cetacean species to have no functional teeth in the jaw area. (Photo is public domain).

Narwhals are deep divers. They feed in in entire water columns, taking pelagic fish, squid, shrimp, and bottom-dwelling fish. On average, dives can last up to 20 minutes and they have been known to reach depth of more than 3,300 feet below the surface of the ocean. Researchers believe that narwhales suck their prey into their mouths and swallow it whole. They do not use their tusk as a spear weapon.

While narwhals live close-knit groups of up to 20 animals, they are seem to be more scattered and solitary. (Photo by National Geographic).

During the summer months, narwhals form large aggregations that consist of hundreds of animals although they may consist of much smaller close-knit groups of a few animals that number around no more than twenty individuals. These pods are usually homogeneous and consit of either animals of the same gender (like pods that are made of females with calves or breeding males), or of a single age class. In the winter however, these pods get scattered and result in solitary animals, perhaps it could be because of owing to the patchiness of cracks and holes in the ice. Adult males are known to fight one another due to the strong evidence of scars and wounds in the head region. Such fighting among the males could play a role in establishing dominance and breeding opportunities. Despite the fact that narwhals have been known to cross tusks above the surface, there’s no evidence to prove that that they fence with them.

At birth, narwhal calves are grey, just like beluga whales. (Photo by superstock.com)

Narwhals sexually mature at around four to seven years of age while they mate during the winter and early spring months when they become inaccessible for observation by researchers. With a gestation period of about fifteen months, the grey calves are born being around 5.3 feet long and weighting in are no more than 176 pounds. Births occur during  the summer months and will be weaned off at around a year old. Calves will normally still with their mothers for about three years and if they survive into adulthood, they may around 25-50 years.

For centuries, the Inuits of the Canadian Arctic have been known to have hunted the narwhal for food, oil and ivory. (Photo is public domain).

Although narwhals are not endangered, they have been threatned by centuries of commercial whaling which was for their meat, oil, and tusks, all of which have been subjected to forgein trade even though hunting them was only on a casual basis. When laws were established to have such trades banned, it also stated that only the Inuit tribes can sustainably hunt them for traditonal pruposes while only using arrows instead of commerical weapons. Surveys done on narwhals estimate that there are about 50,000 animals roaming the Arctic Ocean although some populations are being threatned by climate change and interbreeding with beluga whales.

Update: Fall Internship


Hanging with a rescued tortoise named Rudolph at the Alligator Attraction at John’s Pass in Redington Beach, FL on July 11th, 2012.

Hey there everyone, this is Jenna posting. Sorry I have not been able to blog in nearly a month for I have been on a two-week vacation in Florida for Fourth of July celebrations and this has prevented me from blogging about what had been going on down there. However, I wanted to blog today because I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on internship news I got the other day and nothing else.

So, I am happy to report that this fall I will be doing an animal care internship at Theater of the Sea in Islamorada, FL. This internship involves working along side the animal training and care staff at the small park to feed and care for dolphins, sea lions, sting rays, sea turtles and other marine animals. The internship will also require interns to assist in food preperations, exhibit upclean and animal feeds through observation, discussion, and participation. For me, this internship will last from November 20th through Janurary 18th and this will mean my fanily and I will all be spending the Holiday season in the Florida Keys but it will be a great Christmas too.

Orginally, I had plans to do an internship at Sea Life Park in Hawaii after getting offered a six-month internship that would last from August through January there but, not being able to find affordable housing on the big island had made it impossible for me to accept it. So, I had to turn it down but the internship coordinator there still wished me the best of luck though.

So anyway, this just a quick update and I want to thank you all for continuing to support me and this blog and I will keep you posted.

~Jenna~

Dolphin Tale Inspired Poem by South African Poet S.C. Duvenhage Pypers


During it’s theatrical run, “Dolphin Tale” was a Number 1 Box Office Hit in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. (Photo of Winter and Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) is a screenshot from “Dolphin Tale).

Since the movie Dolphin Tale was first released last fall, there has been a lot of feedback from people everywhere who said that not only were they in love with the movie and it’s storyline, but also, they were in love with Winter herself. Last night, I was checking The Winter Dolphin Chronicles facebook page when I was a posting from a South African poet named S.C. Duvenhage Pypers who wrote this beautiful poem about the story of Winter the dolphin and the people who rescued her in the movie. Her poem is titled A Dolphin Named Winter and it’s inspired by Dolphin Tale and I am more than happy to share this poem with all of you.

A Dolphin Named Winter……By S.C. Duvenhage Pypers

Stranded you were on the beach the ocean

 too far to reach caught in tight strings of rope

your body unable to cope Alone, scared and in pain

but hope you kept remain a little boy came helping you

and connected with you so true

Sick you were and sore and to eat you

didnt want to anymore but once again

the boy came through and with heart and

soul your bond grew You lost your tail and could not swim

but that did not keep you from gaining a win you taught yorself

to swim and move you were happy, friendly and with new groove

But then again the sad news came you will die if swimming remain

your heart was strong and the boy faught long A prosthetic tail you

would gain there will be sunshine after this at first it did not go

so well but given up was not about to sell The boy knew what

was wrong and got it fixed before too long now you’ve got a

brand new tail and into hearts of many you sail Winter, you

are our friend you are a dolphin angel to the end you

 are my inspiration and i now have a new destination.

Winter i’m swimming with youin my dreams…😉

written by S.C.Duvenhage Pypers now after watching Dolphin Tale

Thank you very much Ms.Pypers for writing this beautiful poem about Winter. It’s just beautiful.

Hope you all have a great morning everyone,

~Jenna~

Whale Watching in Cape Cod


A juvenile humpback whale flipper slaps off Stellwagen Bank, MA. This marine sanctuary serves as a primary feeding ground for humpback whales and other marine life that call it home.

A few weeks ago, I went whale watching with my Dad off Glouchester, MA and it was such a great day for the both of us. We saw at least twelve humpback whales including two mother and calf pairs, four minke whales, and two grey seals off Stellwagen Bank, a marine sanctuary that is two miles off the coast of Cape Cod, MA. The marine sanctuary, which was established in 1992, serves as a safe haven for many marine animals such as whales, dolphins, propoises, seals, and sharks. Yet, when you visit this area, you are more likely to see humpback whales and grey seals more than you are with other animal species though but still, the sight of seeing these large mammals in their natural habitat will make you feel like that you part of a scene from a wildlife documentary even though there are movie cameras around to film the moment.

Humpback whale “Etch-a-Sketch feeds with a flock of sea gulls off the coast of Proviencetown, MA.

During my whale watch, I got to see a varity of surface behaviors such as flipper slapping, tail striking, and even breaching. However, of all these behaviors, I saw the humpbacks whales feeding like crazy. For example, this one whale called “Etch-a-Sketch” did a tail flick right in front of the boat before he took a dive to create a bubble net and lunge feed at the surface with a flock of sea gulls joining him in the action and some of them “rode” on him as he continued to feed. It was such a sight to see and the krill and herring that the whales feed on is what drives these animals to Stellwagen during the spring and summer months while they migrate to waters off the Carribbean.

While scientists don’t know why humpback whales display surface behaviors such as breaching or tail slapping, it’s believed that it could be a sign of either playing, being agressive, or just another form of communication.

Just to make things intersting, we even saw one juvenile  do nothing but flipper slapping the whole we have been in the area. When we first got to Stellwagen for the day, we were “greeted” by the sight of this animal doing nothing but flipper slapping as if he was welcoming us to the sanctuary even though he may have been either being playful or just trying to communicate with other whales that were nearby. Still, he was just so busy flipper slapping that the nautralists on boasrd had trouble figuring out who he was even though they were able to indentify him as being a juvenile whale. He would continue this behavior for several minutes before he decided that he was going take a nice long dive just so we could find other whales in the area.

Going whale watching on Memorial Day was so much fun that I hope to go again next time when I have the chance to do so but I may have to wait until this coming fall for another round because that is when the whales start heading south for the winter.

Have a whale of a day,

~Jenna~

 

Feeding Wild Dolphins=Illegal


Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, it’s illegal to feed wild dolphins in US waters (photo is a screen from a youtube video of a tourist feeding a wild dolphin in Georgia)

With summer being around the horizon, I know that a lot of people will likely be visiting coastal areas for their vacation which also means for boat-goers it means that it’s a time to take that boat out to water to enjoy the beauty of nature. Some of these boat-goers will likely be wanting to see some marine life in their natural habitat and from my experience of seeing marine life out in the wild, it’s truly magical to see humpbacks breaching, or manatees coming right up to boat out of curiosity, or the sight of a pod of wild dolphins swimming passed your boat. However, some people love wildlife so much that they often go a little too far, and that does include feeding wild dolphins sadly. In the United States alone, it’s illegal to feed wild dolphins in US waters under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a law that bans any disturbance of any wild marine mammal in American territorial waters. It also defines harassment as any act of unlawful pursuit, torment, or annoyance that may cause potential harm marine mammals in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns such as feeding, migration, breeding, nursing, breathing, and sheltering.

Feeding wild dolphins can be very harmful to them on every level because their behavior will change from being hunters to becoming beggars once humans start feeding them. Studies that have been done on beggar dolphins for decades have shown that wild dolphin pods that receive handouts from humans were more likely to be unwilling to hunt for their own food because they have been used to receiving handouts. To make matters worse, it has also been known to cause a huge high in juvenile mortality rates for the young animals were never properly taught by their mothers how to hunt, which has made them at risk of predation by sharks and killer whales. In addition, reports from NOAA have shown that beggar dolphins have been known to become very aggressive towards people who had no handouts left for them while there’s evidence of them trying to steal fish off of fishing lines after they have learned to receive food from people.

Remember, feeding wild dolphins is such a huge offense that it’s a $20,000 fine or a year in jail and if you see someone trying to feed a wild dolphin, please report it to NOAA officals right away at 1-800-853-1964.