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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.

Update on Hope (A.K.A., Winter’s Sister)


Hope in her new home at (Drums rolling).................The Winter Zone.

I am very happy to report that on January 4th (the day I visited Clearwater Marine Aquarium since the end of my first internship), Hope, a 14-month old bottlenose dolphin calf has been moved from the Dolphin Deck, to the Winter Zone. This move is just a major milestone for this dolphin because the plan is to introduce her to both Winter and Panama in the near future. However, Hope will likely be first paired with Panama who would serve as an adoptive mother to her like she has to Winter. If this goes well, then they will try to pair her with Winter who would serve as her adoptive sister (Winter tried to interact with Hope behind the gate walls just moments before her training session which left Winter swimming back to one of main gates). Just to keep you more updated, Hope has been weaned from her bottle and continues to learn new behaviors on a daily basis.

 

Oil in The Water: A Report on How the Gulf Oil Spill Is Affecting Cetaceans, Sea Turtles, and Birds


It could be years before anyone knows the full impact of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill

On April 20th, 2010, The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. It killed about 11 oil workers and caused the entire rig to sink into the Gulf about two days later. As a result, more than 206 million gallons of oil spilled into the gulf waters which would go on to affect more than 9,436 marine animals (NOAA, 2011). The animal victims were birds, cetaceans, and sea turtles and many of these animals are either endangered, or threatened. However, while most of the animals that were recovered from the oil spill were rescued and rehabilitated, others sadly, were not so lucky. In fact, the large majority of these oil spill victims have either died or have never been found. While studies are currently being done by wildlife officials to learn about the effects the Gulf oil spill is having on wildlife, it may be more than 20 years before we would learn about the full effects on wild marine animals and their habitats. This recent oil spill in the gulf coast has been taking it’s toll on wildlife, including dolphins, turtles, and birds, on a long-term scale.

Of the nine dolphin rescues that have taken placed during the oil spill, only one dolphin, a juvenile male dolphin named Louie was successfully rehabilitated. (Photo by Zimbo.com)

During the oil spill, which lasted for six months, about 100 cetaceans were collected from oil spill inflicted areas (NWF, 2011). Cetaceans like bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales, have no fur which can be oiled and since they have blubber to help them prevent internal heat loss, they do no need fur for that purpose (NOAA, 2010); this means that cetaceans can not develop hypothermia like seals and sea otters can when in contact with oil. Still, oil could harm then in many ways. For example, when dolphins surfaced to take a breath of air, the oily waters can get into their blowholes before entering their lungs which can then, make breathing very difficult for them (New England Aquarium, 2010). To make matters worse, oil has been known to cause vision damage, since the oil can get into eyes of cetaceans. Oil can make it harder for whales and dolphins to catch and digest their food. For the large baleen whales, like the Bryde’s whale, oil can harm the baleen they depend on for filter feeding, thereby, deceasing their ability to feed, which could then, lead to starvation (NOAA, 2010). Overall, oil has been known to cause intestinal damage to cetaceans and even effect whale and dolphin health on a long term scale. As of January 2011, It has now been reported that bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico may now be experiencing reproduction failure as a result of this spill. This is because researchers had been discovering the bodies of dead dolphin calves, many of which were stillborn, premature, or have died shortly after birth (National Geographic, 2011). The spill has seen at least nine live dolphin rescues that have occurred throughout the Gulf region (NOAA, 2011). However, of those rescues, only one dolphin, a juvenile male bottlenose dolphin named Louie, was successfully rehabilitated and was later transferred to the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, FL in February 2011 (Segal, 2011). However, while the oil spill did have a lot of impact on most dolphin habitats throughout the Gulf Coast, one population of bottlenose dolphins in Orange Beach, Alabama was determined to have been not affect by the Gulf oil spill (NOAA, 2010). Currently, research is being done by NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) to determine the oil spill’s effect on a population of endangered sperm whales in the Gulf Coast for, many cetacean experts had pointed out in the past that the deaths of three whales would push this particular population into extinction, just like the effects of Alaska’s Exxon Valdez oil spill did with a resident killer whale population in the 1990’s and 2000’s (Than, 2010).

After being rescued, oil-covered sea turtles were bathed using dish water soap to remove the oil off their skin (photo by NEAQ).

Sea turtles have inhabited the Gulf of Mexico for more about 100 million years. Five species of sea turtle, the green, Kemp’s Ridley, loggerhead, hawks-bill and leatherback sea turtles can all be found in Gulf coast waters and they were all put at a great risk by the BP oil spill (National Wildlife Federation, 2011). Many sea turtles nest on Gulf Coast beaches that range from Mexico, to Florida. Because oil can damage turtle nests, wildlife volunteers in Alabama developed new ways to monitor turtle nests in beaches where the oil did not hit. The new methods included cleaning up any oil tar that may have washed up these beaches while conducting nighttime surveys along side clean-up crews; this criteria would start at nighttime, for, this was the time between April and October when female sea turtles came to these Alabama beaches to lay their eggs (Alabama Sea Turtles.com). However, the hatching season began to approach, there was a lot of public concern about newly hatched turtles entering the oil covered waters of the Gulf. If the hatch lings were to emerge on oiled-covered beaches, they can suffer from surface exposure, due to short-term exposure to oil tar that would cover the beaches where they hatched as they make it to the water (National Wildlife Federation, 2011). Just to make matters worse, when these turtle hatchlings do make it into water, it would be no safe haven either. Out in the ocean, young turtles rely on seaweed to serve as a shelter that both protect them from predators, and simply, to rest. However, when the seaweed that the young animals rely on as a main habitat got covered in oil, the hatchlings were to doomed to their deaths, because once seaweed is covered in oil, it suffocates and becomes deprived of sunlight. Therefore, the hatchlings, had no protection what so ever. So, in response to public concern about the oil affecting turtle hatchlings and nests, biologists throughout the country began to relocate more than 275 sea turtles nests from the Gulf coast to beaches near the Kennedy Space Center in hopes to prevent a high hatchling mortality rate (Lelis, 2010). By the end of the 2010 summer season, sea turtle biologists estimated about over 15,000 sea turtle hatchlings made it to safe waters of Florida’s Atlantic coast (National Geographic, 2011). Meanwhile, oil can also cause turtles to become both sick and injured. For example, turtles can develop fatal respiratory problems, like pneumonia and cause breathing difficulties when the animals breathe the deadly vapors (New England Aquarium, 2011). When the turtles were first rescued, they were mainly covered in oil, which can also, cause their skin to come off as a result of burning. So, to de-oil the animals, rescuers used dish washing soap to clean the oil off the animal and the process lasted for up to hour. In fact, NOAA statistics show us that about 575 sea turtles were rescued and rehabilitated by biologists and zoo professionals throughout the Gulf coast while 397 of these animals were released by into the wild (NOAA, 2011).

Not only did birds become sick and injured from being covered in oil, their habitats were affected by this disaster as well.

Of all the animals that have been victimized by the 2010 Gulf coast oil spill, birds were the most common victims of this environmental disaster. About 8,183 of the animal victims of the Gulf oil spill were aquatic birds that rely on marshlands and beaches as critical nesting and feeding grounds (NOAA, 2011). The oil causes their feathers to both, mat and separate in which, it could cause them to lose both, buoyancy and the ability to regulate their body temperature. The birds need to keep their feathers peen, then, they would be able to keep themselves warm, keep parasites off their feathers, stay dry, and ensure that the feathers remain in good shape (National Wildlife Federation, 2011). As a result the oil-covered survivors are captured and taken into wildlife rehabilitation facilities where they would be rehabilitated. The rescue efforts were very successful that, In total, about 1,246 sea birds were successfully released back into the wild throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle (International Bird Rescue). Yet, despite the successful rescue efforts, the oil spill did a large amount of damage to hundreds of seabird nesting grounds throughout the Louisiana coastline. Once the oil hit those nesting grounds, not only were the nests now contaminated with oil, the eggs got covered in the oil as well. This meant that when the birds were trying to escape the incoming oil, they were also deserting their nests and leave their now too soft, and too thin eggs behind (New England Aquarium, 2010). Experts who have studied bird colonies in Raccoon Island, Louisiana had admitted to not planning to rescue the nesting birds because they feared that they could have disrupted entire colonies like causing adults to kill their chicks and abandoning their nests (Brown, 2010). In the spring of 2011, bird experts from the National Audubon Society reported that some nesting colonies of endangered brown pelicans returned to their oil-inflicted nests; yet, they have insisted that it could be many years before the extend damage of their food supply is known (National Geographic, 2011). The most tragic sight that beach goers have been seeing lately is the sight of small shorebirds that are now feeding on oil tar along with their prey while at the same time, get their tiny feet and feathers covered with oil and bringing the tar back to their at-risk nests.

Unless efforts are made to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf Coast, The Future of the Gulf of Mexico's marine ecosystem remains uncertain. (photo by National Geographic)

While the total impact of the Gulf oil spill may not be known for many years, the effect that it had on wildlife in the past year is shocking. In the past year since the oil spill first happened, dolphins faced a huge unusual mortality rate, sea turtle eggs put at risk of never hatching because of the oil covered the nests while researchers worked to relocate the surviving nests to the Atlantic coast, and birds, victims of being oil-covered now have to live with nesting in contaminated nesting grounds and suffer a high chick mortality rate. It’s safe to conclude that the oil spill is right now having and having a lot of negative effects on animals native the Gulf coast. For example, most species of dolphins are not endangered, but counting all the dolphin deaths that have occurred since the oil spill is troubling because once a dolphin dies, it’s body sinks to the bottom of the sea; so, it’s hard to get a full count of how many more dolphins died than what the NOAA statistics report (Animal Planet, 2011). So while full surveys on post-oil spill animal moralities will take twenty years or so to complete, it’s safe to say that oil spills can be prevented. First, It has been recommended that oil engineers should always check for any leaks that might be suspicious while being cautious at the same time when both fueling and de-fueling because oil spills often happen because of employee carelessness (ask.com, 2010). As for if a person comes across a stranded animal, alive or dead, NOAA recommends for everyone to call their stranding hotline to report a sick, distressed, orphaned, dead, or injured animal. That way, the networks can respond to this stranding quickly and determine how and why the animals strand. That way, everyone would be doing their part in preventing oil spills and keeping the oceans oil free. Overall, the number one thing to do to ensure that no oil spill would ever happen is educating the public. Through education weather if it’s at a marine life facility, or on a eco-tour boat, educating the public about the effects that oil spills can have on animals is on thing that would ensure both a change in attitude towards wildlife and develop a new awareness about how oil spills can affect wildlife and the habitats they depend on.

Only education and a change in attitude towards the Gulf Coast along with long term research will eventually preserve the wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico.

CMA Dolphin Story: Hope (A.K.A., Winter’s Sister)


Hope

Hope is the most curious of the four dolphins at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

On December 11th, 2010 (about five years and one day after Winter’s rescue), Hope, who was estimated to be two to three months old, was found attempting to nurse from the carcass of her dead mother in Indian River Lagoon, FL. Due to being parentless, Hope was transfered to Clearwater Marine Aquarium under orders of the US National Marine Services for rehabilitation purposes. She has suffered from trauma and at the time of her rescue, her condition was believed to be fragile. Not only was she found in the same region in Florida where Winter was found, she was also rescued by the same two organizations that found Winter too. During her first few weeks at CMA, Hope was given 24 hour care by both the staff and volunteers and she was fed every two hours. Since she’s a young calf, Hope  is fed by bottle. The formula in the bottle is made with a combination of fish, powdered milk substitute, and water that is all blended together to created a “fish milkshake”. Today, Hope, who lives at the Dolphin Deck Exhibit, is almost one year old and weights in at 150 pounds (she’s is continuing to grow constantly!).  Hope was declared “non-releasable” in early 2011 due to her young age at the time of  rescue. This is because Hope was never taught to neither hunt or defend herself from her mother, who she would have stayed with for up to six years in the wild. Although people can teach a dolphin how to hunt, they can’t teach them how to identify which animals are  predators, how to avoid boats, and use sonar to navigate through murky waters. So, instead, she will continue to reside at Clearwater Marine Aquarium as permanent resident. Hope has been fully trained to do various behaviors for medical, mental, and developmental purposes. She is also being taught how to swallow fish on her own. The ultimate goal is to introduce Hope to Winter and eventually pair them up as sisters once she has been weaned off the bottle completely.

When “The Cove” Lies


Nami, is a nearly forty-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who lives at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. This facility is one of fourty-four marine life facilities in the United States and Mainland Europe that does NOT take any dolphins out of drive fisheries.

In March 2010, the documentary The Cove won an Oscar for “Best Documentary”. This film focuses on the slaughter of dolphins off the coast of Taiji, Japan.  While the killing of dolphins in Japan is pretty much real, the reasons behind it is completely deceptive. This is because, the filmmakers of the movie claim that most marine life facilities get their dolphins from Japan when truthfully, they do NOT! Below is a two part commentary that focuses on the inaccuracy statements made by dolphin extremist Ric O’Barry  film producer Fisher Stevens, and director, Louie Psihoyos.

  • Since the making of these videos, it has been alleged by activist groups that 15 dolphins were imported into Turkey from Japan, and several more into two former Soviet ruled countries in eastern Europe.
  • Sea Shepherd’s “Cove Guardians” have cited that NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has granted SeaWorld San Diego a permit to import a young male pilot whale named Argo.  Keep in mind that Argo stranded as a neonate and alone in Moriya Seashore of Katsuura City, Japan on January 10th, 2004. He was NOT collected from any drive fishery or otherwise the permit would have been denied.
  • In 2010, Ocean World, a dolphin facility in the Dominican Republic, filed a lawsuit against Ric O’Barry after being defamed during a CNN interview.
  • As of 2011 only one drive-fishery animal resides in the US. It’s a female false killer whale named Kina. She was originally imported by the US Marine Mammal Navy Program from Ocean Park in Hong Kong in 1987. She was later sent to the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology  in 2000.
  • An attempt by one US aquarium to acquire false killer whales from a 1993 drive fishery was blocked by the US National Marine Fisheries as they considered such operations to be inhumane. This eventually led to an effective ban on imports of drive fishery animals into the US.
However, there are several facts that remain………….
  • Asia and the Middle East are the two active markets for Japanese dolphins. However, the main markets are in Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan.
  • The Japanese drive fisheries pre-date aquariums by almost 350 years. It began in the year 1606 for the purposes of pest control and human consumption. However, archaeological records show that the drive fisheries go back as early as 8-9,000 years ago during prehistoric times.
  • Even if eastern marine life facilities stop acquiring dolphins from drive fisheries, Japanese fishermen would still kill dolphins for the purposes of both pest-control and human consumption.
  • Less than 8% of all dolphins caught in drive fisheries are sold to aquariums. The rest are killed in the hands of Japanese fishermen.
  • Ric O’Barry was not the first person to expose Japan’s drive fishery practices. It was first revealed by National Geographic in 1979 and three years later by filmmaker and dolphin conservation advocate Hardy Jones and the Cousteau family in a 1982 TV documentary.
  • No wild dolphin has been collected from the wild for a US facility since 1989 . It’s been three decades sine any dolphin has been imported from a drive fishery to a facility in Western Europe. The reason why many western marine life facilities have not obtain collection permits since the 1980’s is due to the success of captive breeding programs.
  • Both the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) and the Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) prohibit any of their accredited facilities from taking  any animal from drive fisheries. Accredited  marine zoological facilities in the western hemisphere from Alaska to Argentina do not support, fund, nor acquire dolphins from the Japanese drive fisheries.
  • Much like the evolution of marine wildlife conservation awareness in the United States, only education and a changing values towards cetaceans, including dolphins, will bring an end to a three-century-old inhumane cultural hunt.

Releasing Captive Cetaceans Back Into The Wild: A Potential Death Sentence!


Rocky was one of three bottlenose dolphins that were part of a "return-to-the-wild" project in the 1990's. His fate remains unknown

In 1991, the UK-based Animal Rights group Born Free Foundation, and it’s two group partners, the Switzerland-based  Bellerive Foundation , and the US-based World Society for Animal Protection, began running a “return-to-the-wild” campaign called “Into the Blue”. This campaign focused on rehabilitating long-term captive dolphins for release into the wild. The campaign involved the use of three bottlenose dolphins from British aquariums. One dolphin named Rocky, was collected from the Florida panhandle in 1971. The other dolphin named Missie, was collected off the coast of Texas in 1969. And the last dolphin, named Silver, was collected off the coast of Taiwan in 1978. The three animals were moved to a sea-pen in the Turks and Caicos in February and March of 1991. There, their “rehabilitation” began. Over a six month period, the animals were simply “taught” how to eat live fish. On September 10th, 1991, all three dolphins were released after being freeze-branded. Although the three animals were seen the day after their release, Missie and Rocky would never again be seen project staff members. Since then, all sightings have been made by fishermen and tourists who were unfamiliar with the dolphins.

Silver was sighted by project staff members only a week after being released.

About less than two weeks after being released, Pacific bottlenose dolphin Silver, was sighted by project staff members. However, when he was sighted, he had already lost some weight and had a series of health problems, including an infection on his rostrum. Silver was also given both sixty pounds of food, and antibiotics by the project staff in the wild. At the same time, he had also began to associate with a “wild-friendly” dolphin named Jojo. Still, Silver was only seen from September 16th, to September 29th of 1991 and has not been sighted since then. Meanwhile, a photographic competition to produce photographic evidence of the animals continuing to survive. Therefore, the fate of the three UK aquarium dolphins Rocky, Missie and Silver remain unknown.

Even the release of "Free Willy" star Keiko was a complete failure....Why? Because no one knew what Icelandic pod did Keiko come from...Therefore, Keiko had no pod to begin with.

The release of Free Willy star Keiko is well documented. In the late 1990’s three marine animal rights groups lobbied and attempted to release Keiko back into the wild. This release project coast $20 million in tax-free donations and produced several TV documentaries. Although it’s been documented that Keiko swam all the way from Iceland to Norway, the scientific reports made by both Greenland and US officials concluded that the release of Keiko was NOT successful.  About only a few weeks after being on his own, Keiko began to seek out human companionship and started to follow boats around and looking for handouts. Keiko died podless from pneumonia in 2003.

Dolphin at the now closed Atlantis Marine Park in Western Australia in the 1980's.

In 1990, seven Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were released from Atlantis Marine Park in Western Australia after being in captivity for a decade due to lack of public funding. Three of the seven animals were born at the facility and were already accustomed to human care.  Prior to the release, some effort was made to “train” the dolphins for their release in March 1991. However, three dolphins were recaptured after the release due to rapid and severe weight loss. It was believed that the animals did not know how to hunt despite, being taught to eat live fish. They were also seen begging for food from boats. Just to make matters worst, a young calf was presumed dead and it is not known what happened to the two other dolphins.

The video you are about to watch focuses on an illegal release conducted by a former Miami Seaquarium employee named Ric O Barry and several members of his organization, Dolphin Project Inc., a group that claims to release captive dolphins back into the wild.

Keep in mind, many issues have to be addressed when considering a marine mammal to be a candidate for release back into the wild:

* Can they be returned to their former range?: This is the aspect of how important to the genetics of the population and species.

* How old were they when they were first collected from the wild or were they born in captivity? In other words, are they capable of surviving in the wild? Did they learn how to hunt, communicate with their species, migrate, evade predators, ect.?

* How accustomed are they to humans? Will that cause problems either putting them at dangerous risk or the safety of the people?

* Do they have the proper immune system for wild survival? Wild cetaceans have immunities to disease that captive specimens don’t and as I mentioned earlier in this topic, captive marine mammals could also expose a wild stock to diseases and viruses that has never been exposed by the population.

In the US, NOAA fisheries is the agency that issues permits for “return to the wild” projects. They require two simply stated but crucial contingencies. The marine mammals must not be a threat to wild populations, and it must be currently healthy at the time of release and likely to survive. Another requirement under this permit is that all marine mammals released into the wild must also provide a monitoring system to track the animal and plan to rescue it if it is not adapting well to life in it’s wild environment.

Echo and Misha's release is the only one of three known cetacean releases that has been documented to be successful

A return to the wild project that was conducted by a well-respected marine mammal scientist named Dr. Randall Wells in the 1980’s is considered to be one of the very few documented releases of dolphins that is considered to be successful. But, even he would later state that he would never attempt to do such a project like that again due to the stress it causes the dolphins.  These two dolphins were collected off the coast of Tampa Bay, FL for scientific purposes in Florida. However, Dr. Wells had plans to release them a year later. After the completion of an echolocation project at a California Marine Biology Institute, Misha and Echo were re-located to a sea-pen in the same sight where they were first collected. There, they were retrained to re-adapt to life at sea. They were released in 1990 and have both been sighted numerous times over the years. Here are some of the reasons why their release was considered successful:

  • they were released as a natural functional social unit. Male pairs are common in bottlenose dolphins.
  • the two dolphins were fairly young. They were approximately 6-7 years old at the time of their capture. This means that they had extensive experience in fending for themselves in the wild prior to their capture. At they time of their release, they were 8-9 years old (sub-adults).
  • they were released back into their native waters, close to their capture sites.
  • they were released after relatively short period of time in captivity (2.2 years)
  • they were acclimatised in a sea pen near the release site prior to the release.

It is safe to say that the two only acceptions for releasing animals back into the wild are rescued animals that are releasable and to re-populate endangered species.

My Dolphin Encounter with Winter and Panama Plus a Snorkel Party


The author (me) with Panama, an elderly bottlenose dolphin in her forties.

So About a week before I returned home to New Hampshire, my sister Janis and I did a dolphin encounter program that Clearwater Marine Aquarium offers as one of it’s many dolphin interaction programs that are available to the public. The encounter usually begins with a behind the scenes tour, where you can see how the aquarium works and some of the sights and sounds of the upcoming movie “Dolphin Tale”. But because Janis and I were working at the aquarium for the summer and we simply knew everything about the facility, so it was decided by trainer Abby Stone and her team that our session would last an additional few minutes. So, at about 3:30 PM, Abby led us to the Winter Zone and that was when our encounter began.

Here is me feeding a fish to Winter the Dolphin with my sister Janis and hero Abby at my side.

When I got my feet into the watery platform, man, it was cold but at the same time, it felt pretty much relaxing too at the same time. The temperature of the water was about 77 degrees. It was just the perfect temperature for such a hot day as it was. Back to the encounter, Abby introduced us to celebrity dolphin Winter. My sister and I got to feed her fish, touch her flipper, and give her a few signals. However, While we got all touchy with Winter, we also got to learn a little bit about dolphin anatomy like the dorsal fin, and pectoral fins. Winter was a bit vocal too. But while, we focused on Winter, her adopted mother Panama come right up to us like it was her turn or something. Abby on the other hand, instructed us to not look at Panama and focus on interacting with Winter for the rest of the first session.

 

It's now Panama's turn to interact with us.

After our session with Winter was over, it was now time to play with Panama. But first, we started off her session with three photo sessions with Panama before the encounter began. Some of the behaviors we gave to Panama included “singing” to us, splashing and waving at us. It was like Panama was putting on a show of her own. It was such a great day to play with Winter and Panama while getting to know some great trainers who spend their time educating everyone about dolphins and other marine life while working the animals at the same time.

Here's how I celebrated a great summer at CMA.............Snorkle Party!! (photo is by fellow intern, Jackie Lewis)

So, on the last Thursday of my internship, CMA’s education interns held an evening boat party that took you out to go snorkeling in the harbor. When we got to a nearby sand bar, I just jumped off the boat and I began  my snorkeling experience. I swan through a bed full of sand dollars, conchs, and crabs. I would find sand dollars that were the size of my hand, and show it off to everyone before putting back in the water because they were all alive. Soon after, I found a blue crab that was resting inside an old pipe. At first, I thought there was nothing but sand inside the pipe, but after taking a good peek inside the small pipe, I found the crab in there and allowed everyone to see him for a while. Don’t worry, we did not bring him back with us, instead, we let him be by returning him to the same spot where we found him.  After our little encounter with the blue crab and more snorkeling, I ended up finding a large lighting whelk. Once I picked it up, I tell everyone “hey look what I have on me…it’s a whelk, please come take a look. Soon, everyone took a look it before it began to move around my hands for a few minutes before fellow intern Amy sighted a loggerhead turtle who was 100 yards away from us. When Amy broke the news about the turtle sighting, I put the whelk back into the water so, that I could try to get a good glimpse of the turtle myself. Eventually, she surfaced for us a few times before she swam off to sea. It was not long before it was time to head back to the aquarium because it was about to storm in Clearwater. Overall, it was such a great evening and good way to end a great summer.

I am so going to miss seeing Janis playing Tina the turtle.

My last day was the following Friday and I got invited to intern at the aquarium again next year. Don’t worry, This blog will have new entries year around. So stay tuned.