Archive | September 2011

Update on CMA (A Report from my friends back in Clearwater)

If you plan to visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium, this little trailer is where you will have to get your tickets from. (photo by a Clearwater Marine Aquarium staff)

Here is a new update on CMA and how you will be expecting changes that will be going on there pretty soon. Yes, the aquarium is getting perpared. Here is what they have to say:

Keep your eyes open for a lot of upcoming changes…things are about to get crazy! Yet this is an extremely exciting time for us and we so honored to be able to spread the word and educate the world on our mission of rescuing, rehabbing and releasing marine life.

We have been making plans to expand our square footage to improve the guest experience. Also, with the West Side construction starting soon we needed to add portable restrooms as our old restrooms are being bulldozed very soonAdding tents on the North side of the building covered both issues. We are now operational with our new ticket trailers. These will relieve the bottleneck indoors where ticket sales and retail sales had shared the same area. Once our guest purchases a ticket they will walk into the fenced area where a Guest Service Specialist will greet the guest and verify they have purchased a ticket.Once inside the fence the guests are now free to roam the entire guest side of the building and come and go from the building to the fenced area to utilize the restrooms and the activities that the Hospitality team will provide under the tents.

We have designated new handicapped parking spaces beside the ticket trailers to ensure a positive guest experience for our disabled guests. We have reclassified the restroom by surgery as our ADA restroom as the restrooms outside are not designed for ADA.”

——Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s blog at

Keep in mind that this is not the only current change that is going on right now, the aquarium has also reported that they completed renovation on the sea turtle ICU which re-opened last Monday. This area now has air conditioning, which will keep the turtles cool on the hottest of days, a new drop ceiling with improved lighting, a new glass door, which will allow guests to view the area and two cameras which will serve as “live feeds” for guests to watch the turtles in quarantine pools without having to go into the area. Meanwhile, CMA has recently been only opening up to the public at 1:00 PM due to media interest in the upcoming movie “Dolphin Tale”.

These are all the latest updates on Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Hope you get the chance to visit. Oh, Safe trip and great experience to everyone attending the 2011 IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association) conference in Miami, FL this week. I hope you guys have a great experience.



Manatees by the Sea Wall: An Encounter with Manatees in Cape Canaveral

A curious juvenile manatee interacts with me behind a sea wall in Cape Canaveral, FL back in 2006.

About five years ago when I was 14, I encountered several wild manatees in Cape Canaveral,FL. My mother got us a room at a sea-side hotel that overlooked the NASA space station. We were heading our way back home from spending two months in Florida with my grandfather and his greyhound Lynne. I was told by my mother that manatees often hand around a small sea wall that was in front of back area most of the year. I wanted to check it out so, I went to the back side to see if I could get a glance of them. Indeed, it would not be long before, I encountered my first wild manatee. It was such an amazing site to see. Seconds later, I encounter a second manatee in the same spot and they just getting a good glimpse of me for over 40 minutes. They were so close to the sea wall that, I could easily touch them if I wanted to. An hour later, a third manatee came up to me from the sea wall and it felt like they were all coming up to me for some reason in I would not know about. Later that night, several other manatees were appearing all over the small lagoon while the three manatees I encountered remained by the sea wall. Most of the adult manatees that were sighted from our hotel room were mother and calf pairs. Two of the manatees that interacted with me were juveniles. Sadly, one of them had severe scars on his back and I wondered if he got hit by a boat propeller. After all, it’s very common to sight a wild manatee with scars from either boat propellers or fishing entanglements and it’s rare to see one that has no scars on it’s body. The following morning, I woke up to seeing a small colony of them swimming up to sea wall. After getting dressed for the day, I went back to back side of the hotel to interact with them and believe me, there was now two adult females and three juveniles. That interaction would last for about an hour-and-a-half hours. This encounter made me realize that manatees, like most marine mammals, are quite curious about people and may voluntary come right up to you if they want to.

The Luck of the Beluga

Me and Juno drew a major crowd thanks to interacting with each other behind the glass.

For many years, I have had the privilege of interacting with a variety of captive marine mammals. Many of these interactions were done during interactive training sessions I got to do with the trainers. However, some of them were actually done behind the glass walls of animal exhibits. So, this past St. Patrick’s Day, I was visiting the animals at Mystic Aquarium when I began to play with an adolescent beluga whale named Juno behind the glass walls of the Arctic Coast exhibit. I was laying a few stuffed animals behind the glass walls of Juno’s home in hopes either he or one of the two elderly females he shares his exhibit with when all of the sudden, Juno came right up to me as if he knew me forever. I immediately responded to him back by showing off a stuffed beluga whale and a small mirror. He was simply very curious about my stuffed beluga whale though. He must of thought “wow, that must be one small beluga”. But, I can’t read what’s going on in his mind, I can only assume that he must have been thinking of plush toy counterpart as a mini version of himself or something. Juno and I were interacting with one another for such a long period of time, that we attracted a huge crowd of people to the exhibit to catch a glimpse of a rare human-animal bond. As the people were overcrowding the underwater viewing areas, Juno and I continued to interact for the next hour or so. On some occasions, he would pop his jaws out at the little kids who try to grab his attention and he would respond to me whistling a few tunes for him, and finally, show off a couple more stuffed animals before he went back to simply doing his own little thing. Overall, the interaction just shows you how intelligent beluga whales are because of their strong curiosity towards people. In fact, it’s normal for them to approach other animals, people, and foreign objects out of curiosity both, in the wild and in captivity.