Tag Archive | animals

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.



Marine Mammal Husbandry

The purpose of animal husbandry on marine mammals including cetaceans, like Panama is to monitor their health and ensure that they are healthy.

Animal husbandry incorporates all methods and practices used to monitor the health of all marine mammals in human care. Trainers, animal care staff, and veterinarians employ structured routines to monitor and maintain the health of all animals in their care through daily medical examinations and constant observation. All work with the animals is then recorded on computers and charts for both easy reference and long-term tracking. Husbandry procedures include exhaling, obtaining fecal and urine samples, blood testing, and ultrasound and the goal of these procedures is to ensure the animal remains healthy in a zoological setting.

1. Exhaling

Naku shows us how exhaling can help monitor a whale or dolphin's respiratory health.

An exhale is when a trainer asks a whale or dolphin to give them a strong blow from their blowhole in order to obtain blow samples that will later be tested by veterinarians to determine their respiratory health.

2. Hydration (cetaceans)

Hydration helps prevents cetaceans from developing kidney problems. (photo by the Kohala Center of Hawaii)

Hydration is a procedure done to keep a whale or dolphin hydrated by carefully inserting a clean tube down the animal’s throat. This is because unlike humans, dolphins do not have a gag reflex which can make the procedure pretty easy for the trainers. A funnel that contains fresh water is connected to the tube.

3. Blood Testing

Many captive marine mammals are trained to voluntary present their tail flukes (cetaceans and manatees) and flippers (seals, walruses, and sea lions) for blood sampling. (Photo by SeaWorld)

One of the best ways to determine animal health is by taking a blood sample from animals in human care. When blood is taken, a marine mammal is asked to voluntary present either it’s tail fluke, or flipper. In cetaceans, the animal lays in a vertical position with pressure being applied to the tail flukes. When the blood is being drawn, it’s drawn the from the major vessel running along the underside of the fluke. In most seals, and sea lions, the blood is drawn from their flippers while remaining still. The blood sample is then taken to a lab where it would be tested to determine illness.

4. Urine/Fecal Sample

Urine and fecal samples are used to determine eating pattern and hormone levels.(photo is public domain).

In order to collect urine or fecal samples, the trainer must first clean the animal’s urogenital opening with an antiseptic gauze pad before placing the cup into a position that would be easy to catch either urine or fecal and apply pressure on the bladder or anus carefully with the palm of the trainer’s hand. The animal then fills the cub.  The samples are then used to determine an animals’s eating pattern (feces), or to determine if an animal is either pregnant or ready to breed.

5. Milking

Milk samples from nursing animal mothers can help veterinarians check for hormone changes and study ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. (Photo by Zooborns.com).

Milking is when the mammary glands of a marine mammal is attached to a breast pump by having the animal voluntary lay in a haul-out position. Although the samples are mainly used for research purposes, they are also used to hand-rear baby animals that have been either rejected by their mothers or their mothers had died shortly after birth.

6. Sunscreening

During her rehabilitation, Winter was given sunscreen lotion to prevent her from getting sunburn as a result of the hot Florida sun. (Screenshot from 'Winter: The Dolphin That Could" DVD).

In the wild, dolphins that spend most of their time resting on the surface of the water would be more likely to develop serious skin problems from years of exposure to the sun. In zoological facilities however, cetaceans receive sunscreen that can be applied to their melon and other external parts of the body to prevent sunburns. At some facilities like SeaWorld, a sprinkler is provided to keep the skins of marine mammals cool damped during the hottest days of the year.

7. Semen Collection

It takes months of training to successfully train cetaceans such as Ulises the killer whale for semen collection. (Photo is public domain).

Semen collecting is the method of obtaining semen from a breeding male for the purposes of research and to one day artificially inseminate breeding females without ever having to transfer the males to other facilities for breeding loans. During this procedure, when the male sees a small plastic bag, he will voluntary roll over and present his penis before admitting semen samples to the trainer.

8. Body Measuring

Every two to four weeks, marine mammals such as manatees, are always measured to determine their body length and height. (Photo by ABC Animal Training.)

The most common husbandry practice at marine zoological facilities, body measuring is a procedure that measures the physical growth of an animal. The animal may lay either vertical or dorsal-up while trainers or keepers use a measuring tape to measure their length and girth. In cetaceans, some of these measurements may include the dorsal fin, tail flukes, and pectoral fins while sea lions and seals may only have to include the flippers.

9. Weighting by Slide Out

Slide outs are very helpful when it comes to recording an animal's weight. (Photo is public domain).

Slide outs are used to weight an animal using a flat, low-laying electronic scale. This procedure requires the animal to slide on top of the scale and lay still for just a few seconds while it’s being weighted. The scale shows how much an animal weights and can determine if that weight is healthy or not.

10. Tooth Care

A harbor seal is getting it's teeth cleaned by it's trainer during a husbandry session. (Photo is public domain).

Dental procedures are very important when it comes to caring for marine mammals in captivity. About several times a day, trainers swap, and brush the teeth of marine mammals to prevent possible tooth infections that would otherwise cause life-threatening illnesses to the animals. The teeth are then flushed with water after the teeth are bushed. However, if a tooth is infected, then a veterinarian will be required to perform an x-ray exam to determine how bad the infection is before deciding on where to go from there (a tooth cannot be surgically amputated unless it’s proven to be seriously infected and it’s at all means to save an animal’s life).

11. Eye Dropping

eye drops are used to treat and prevent eye problems in pinnipeds. (Photo by SeaWorld).

In pinnipeds such as sea lions and seals, eye problems are very common. While their eyes have evolved for seeing well underwater, it’s not known why they develop eye problem such as blindness, and cataract. In human care however, such problems can either be treated or prevented with the use of eye drops. A small drop of this medicine is carefully inserted into the pupil and allow it to sit and the medicine will absorb into the entire eye after several minutes.

12. Ultrasound

Many animals such as killer whales and dolphins are trained to hold still and relax during ultrasound exams. (Photo by SeaWorld).

Another valuable tool in animal husbandry is the use of an ultrasound. This procedure allows veterinarians to scan the animals for internal anatomy images. It’s also very useful to establish norms for individual animals  so that if some sort of change does occur, such as possible illness, treatment can occur instantly. Ultrasound is also used to detect pregnancy and monitor fetal health as well as determine the optimum time for mating females.

No training session nor husbandry procedure is ever forced.

It must be reminded that none of these husbandry procedures are forced and are all voluntary by the animals themselves. Each and everyone of the animals that are in human care are trained with the same tools along with other behaviors.

I hope you all find this list of husbandry procedures to be a helpful resource.


More Orca FAQs

While resident orcas will remain in the same pod for life, this is not the case for transient orcas. Photo of orcas Unna, Kyuqout and Tuar was taken on July 24th, 2008 by yours truly.

Hello everyone,

In response I got from Yovani Valdes regarding my first blog entry that was about frequently asked questions about orcas, I decided to add a sequal to that blog entry. This entry is all based off six of seven questions that were asked by Yovani and the one other question that I have found on yahoo.com.

1. How are new pods formed?

Females will begin to branch off from from their birth pods when they start having calves of their own. From there on, they will eventually start new lines of their own even though they will continue to travel closely with their mothers and other family members.

2. How large can pods get?

Orca pod sizes can range from two to forty animals.

3. What’s a transient pod?

Most transient orcas may have short term associations with other pods from time to time. Photo by National Geographic.

Transient orca pods are small loosely-based social structures that may consist of an adult female and two or three of her offspring. However, while the eldest male calf will remain with the mother for life, the other calves must leave her. Transient calves will leave their mother’s pod at around 5-12 years. Females have been known to travel with other transient animals who they may or may not be related too while males will travel with one group after another for time to time. However, the only exception to this rule is if female offspring fail to produce any offspring of her own and will remain with the mother for life.

4. What are the intervals between births?

Born year around, killer whale calves may nurse from their mothers for up to two years. Photo of Katina with her son Makaio was by taken by yours truly in July 2011.


Female orcas will give birth to a single calf every 3-5 years. On average, females will probably give birth to 4-6 calves during her lifetime.

5. When do they start breeding and until what age?

While female orcas will mature at around 7 to 10 years of age, it could be another six to nine years before they have their first calf. The average age for females to give birth for the first time is around 11-15 years. They become post-reproductive in their mid-forties.

6. Why do dorsal fins bend? 

There are a series of theories about why an orca's dorsal fin bends. photo is by Public Domain

Although it’s not really known why an orca’s dorsal fin bends, many believe that gravity may have something to do with it. For example,  when orcas dive under water, the surrounding water helps support the dorsal fin which is made of nothing more than muscle and connective tissues. Also, orcas who spend most of their time at the surface with their fins protruding out of the water has greater chances of flipping over on a long-term scale. Additionally, the collagen becomes more flexible when warm such as exposure to the sunlight. However, there are also theories about collapsed dorsal fins being genetic (there there’s evidence to support that too).  Yet because the dorsal fins of male orcas can grow up to six feet tall, the height of the fins may have a great tendency for the fins to naturally collapse or become wavy over time. However, it must be reminded that neither the shape or droop of a whale’s dorsal fin are not indicators of an orca’s health, or well-being.

If you have anymore questions about orcas and other marine mammals, feel free to email me at Animaltrainer104@aol.com

Hope you all have a great weekend everyone,


Right Whale Tale(s)

A female North Atlantic Right Whale swimming in a Provincetown Harbor in 2004.

Since the movie Big Miracle, a film that’s a about a grey whale rescue in Alaska is out in theaters, I thought to commemorate it by sharing with you two whale watch experiences I had with the endangered North Atlantic right whale. These encounters occurred in 2004 and 2010. 

The first encounter with a wild right whale took place in October 2004. I was 12 at the time and whale watch boat that my family and I were aboard on was just leaving the harbor to see some whales in the Stellwagen’s Bank National Marine Sanctuary which was 10 miles off of Cape Cod. About just a minute into leaving the harbor, the naturalist unexpectedly stopped the boat about 500 yards out of port; it was then, he announced that there were right whales in the harbor. He then went on to talk about the right whales when suddenly, two right whales, a mother and her calf surfaced about 150 yards from our boat and believe me, it was such a site to see. However, just as we were all enjoying the right whales swimming by the boat, two jet skiers passed by the boat and they were too close to the whales and just to make matters worse, the jet skiers were skiing to fast in the harbor. As a result, the horrified naturalist warned them that he would report them if they slowed down and stayed 300 yards away from the whales, but the skiers kept on ignoring the naturalist before he finally called the coast guard on them. That was such an unexpected day because normally, you will not find right whales swimming in harbors but rather like 10-30 miles offshore if you’re lucky.

Then about almost two years ago in March 2010, my mother and I went down to coastal town of Provincetown, Massachusetts for Easter weekend in hopes that we to try out some land-based whale watching and see some whales. One the first evening we were there, we were at Herring Cove Beach when three North Atlantic right whales were sighted just five and a half miles offshore. Although they were far away, but you were able to see them up-close via, binoculars. Just to make things more interesting, I witnessed a young right whale calf learning how to breach from her mother and “auntie”. One of the two adult animals would breach first before the calf would repeat the behavior over and over again. It was such a precious moment to watch a whale calf learn from her mother.

These two right whale encounters were just amazing and far beyond my wildest imaginations. I hope that the next time I go whale watch, I get to see some right whales again.

Have a whale of a Valentine’s Day everyone,


Wildlife Heroes: True Role Models Worth Looking Up To

Who is a better role model? Please Be the Judge.........


Back when my parents where in grade school, the Jacques Cousteau specials,  the original Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, The True Life Adventures, and Flipper where among the biggest TV shows and documentaries that captivated the American public with their ability to connect people to the natural world the beauty and power of nature that could not be seen anywhere else. In fact, some of these popular shows like Flipper went on to encourage sympathy towards the public over certain animals that were once considered to be either pest or simply, dangerous.  As time went on in years after the last Flipper show ended, these shows and documentaries would go on expose the problems that animals were facing out in the wild like habitat destruction, poaching, and over-fishing, issues that may have inspired the first environmental groups of the 60’s and 70’s to be established in hopes to encourage the public to take responsibility for  environmental wrong doings and start caring for the planet and it’s wild places and inhabitants. In the United States, such movements and public concerns about various animal issues had led to the establishment of three federal laws (The Animal Welfare Act, The Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act), all of which are dedicated to protecting animals and their habitats. Today, in this ever changing world where celebrities like Snooki, Heidi Montag, the cast of Teen Mom and the Kardashians continue to make headlines thanks to  “being famous for being famous”, there are some amazing people from all walks of life who strive on making a difference and follow the footsteps that the late Steve Irwin has left behind and become “wildlife warriors” in their own right.

Making a difference involves a little love and passion. Just ask these SeaWorld trainers.

Why wildlife heroes? It’s because these people (Julie Scardina, Jeff Corwin, Dyan DeNapoli, and SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue Team, ect.) continue to make a difference in every shape as well as on every level. Some of these people, like Julie Scardina for example, continues to educate the public on wildlife by showing off some of her fellow animal ambassadors on a number of TV shows while talking to her audience about each and every one of them. Meanwhile, veterinarians like Dr. Chris Dold, along with SeaWorld’s animal care rescue work around the clock  to care for sick, injured, and orphaned animals in need of rehabilitation which can last from several weeks to several years depending on the individual cases while trainers like Abby Stone, Laura Surovik and many others thrive on welcoming visitors of all ages to experience animals up close and personal from the comforts of a zoological setting where the experience is a fun, safe, and educational experience even though the trainers know all the risks of working with various animals such as killer whales. And Finally, there are conservationists like Dyan DeNapoli and Diana Reiss who continue to study and understand the incredible world of animals for as much as we know about popular species like penguins and dolphins, there still so much we have yet to know and knowing more about them is one of the ways that would save them from dying out.

In the end, these people may not get a lot of press comparing to their famous counterparts, but they continue to inspire us all on every level to love and appreciate wildlife and most importantly, make a difference on every level. So why idolize Snooki or the Kardashians when there are people who truly make a difference everyday?

Big thanks to Lexi for helping me come up with this blog entry. Thanks again,



A Whale of a Holiday Shopping Spree: Ideal Gifts for the Sea Life Lover in Your Life

Stuffed animals like this ever adorable Winter Doll, make great gifts for kids and young adults of all ages.

Since the Holiday season has just arrived, I decided that I’m going to write an entry about some ideal gifts that the ultimate sea life lover in your life. Below is a video that talks about some reading and video suggestions for the  aspiring marine mammal trainers in your life:

Here are some links to purchase or check out some of the books and DVDs mentioned in this video which talks about suggestive reading and viewing on animal training and care.

Wild Careers: Working with Animals: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Wild-Careers/Loran-Wlodarski/e/9781893698086

Dolphin Discovery: Bottlenose Dolphin Training and Interaction:http://www.amazon.com/Dolphin-Discovery-Bottlenose-Interaction-Education/dp/1…

Starting Your Career as a Marine Mammal Trainer:http://www.amazon.com/Starting-Career-Marine-Mammal-Trainer/dp/0971985324/ref…

Lads Before the Wind : Diary of a Dolphin Trainer :http://www.amazon.com/Lads-Before-Wind-Dolphin-Trainer/dp/1890948047/ref=pd_b…

A Dolphin In Front of Your: A Guide to Starting Your Career as a Dolphin Trainer: http://www.amazon.com/Dolphin-Front-You-Pete-Davey/dp/097672913X/ref=sr_1_1?i…

Believe: http://shamushop.com/SeaWorld-Believe-Show-DVD/M/B003E13022.htm

Celebrating Dolphins: http://shamushop.com/SeaWorld-Celebrating-Dolphins-DVD/M/B00443QKUI.htm

Winter: The Dolphin that Could:http://store.seewinter.com/seewinter.com/dvddocumentary.html

The Saving a Species DVDs are all available at the gift shops at SeaWorld Parks. If you buy them at the Animal Connections Conservation Center at SeaWorld San Antonio, or at a gift shop at any one of parks, the proceeds made from the purchase goes to the SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.

P.S., if you are interested in ordering the SeaWorld publication material, via, SeaWorld’s Education Department, learn more at:http://www.seaworld.org/education-resources/publications/how-to-order.htm

Gift certificates for animal encounters with sharks, fish, penguins and marine mammals at any facility such as Clearwater Marine Aquarium, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Mystic Aquarium make great holiday gifts for the ultimate adventurer on your list.

For those who have friends or loved ones who want to get into dolphin biology, here are some awesome books on the topic that they will love.

"Dolphin Mysteries" focuses on the efforts to study and understand dolphin communication

Dolphin Mysteries: Unlocking the Secrets of Communication is an amazing book that focuses on the efforts of two dolphin biologists, Dr. Kathleen M. Dudzinski, and Dr. Toni Frohoff as they attempt to study and understand the secrets behind dolphin communication by studying dolphin populations in the Bahamas, Japan, and Guatemala. Over the years, they have found new ways to both understand and listen to the vocabulary and social signals of dolphins while providing a whole new scientifically accurate portrait of dolphins unlike any other the world has ever seen before. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in studying dolphin biology.

Dolphin Mysteries: Unlocking the Secrets of Communication: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0300121121?%20%20tag=thedolpcommpr-%20%2020&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=030012112%20%201&adid=03VB9WH650V2PCH6PQM6&

"The Dolphin in the Mirror" is a fantastic book for anyone who is curious about dolphin intelligence and it should be ready by anyone who wants to one day work with these amazing mammals.

Dr. Diana Reiss’s The Dolphin in the Mirror is a cleaver book that focuses on her experience studying dolphin intelligence. Dr.Reiss began her work on dolphin intelligence more than 30 years ago when she worked with a young female dolphin named Circe at a small aquarium in France. A few years later in the 1980’s. She began doing several research projects with a dolphin colony at Marine World USA (now known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom), and has even went on to work on a successful self-recognition project with two male dolphins at the  New York Aquarium in the 1990’s. Today, she is the director of National Aquarium’s dolphin research program, a member of two zoological organizations, and a professor at three colleges. She is also involved in the effort to stop the drive fisheries in Japan. Resiss’ years of observations and research done on dolphins will have you continue to appreciate these amazing animals.

The Dolphin in the Mirror: http://www.amazon.com/Dolphin-Mirror-Exploring-Minds-Saving/dp/0547445725

"To Touch A Wild Dolphin" is an incredible story about discovering the social lives of Australia's Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin population.

Below is a review video I did on To Touch A Wild Dolphin, a classic memoir by Rachel Smolker that tells the the true story of a young researcher named Rachel Smolker, who in the 1980’s started a long-term study on a population of Indo-Pacifc bottlenose dolphins in Monkey Mia in Shark Bay, Australia. It is a classic story about dolphins that is a must read for anyone who loves dolphins, and marine mammal research.

To Touch a Wild Dolphin: http://www.amazon.com/Touch-Wild-Dolphin-Discovery-Intelligent/dp/0385491778

If your friend or loved one has jewelry on their Christmas list, then Aelia Petro's animal necklaces make gifts for those who love animal-themed jewelry. Beautiful Winter Dolphin necklace Aelia. Visit her site at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtByAelia?ref=seller_info

All the orca lovers on your list will love orca adoptions through the Whale Museum's killer whale adoption program. Each whale adoption comes with a certificate, photo, biography, genealogy and updates on how their whale and his/her pod is doing along with booklet on Southern Resident killer whales, and more.

All of these gift ideas and more can be found on:







Hope these gift suggestions make your Holiday shopping experience a good one and Happy Holidays.


What does it Take to Rescue and Rehabilitate Wildlife in Trouble

A rescue team member at the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA treats a cold-stunned Kemp's Ridley (photo by NEAQ)


Every year, a number of sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals strand for various reasons. This is because when an animal strands, it’s because they are either out of their elements, or, outside of their survival envelope. However, identifying an animal as “stranded” is very difficult because, many times, animals will mask their symptoms to avoid predation; but the main signs that would tell you that an animal is stranded would include the following: illness, orphaned by an un-returning mother after 24 hours, injury, or suffering from any condition that may prevent movement or feeding on their own.  If you come across a sick, orphaned, or injured marine animal, please keep an eye on it for a long period of time. Then, call your local zoological park that does wildlife rehabilitations, or or nearest wildlife rehabilitation center that does rescue and rehabilitations of marine wildlife (be sure you give the exact situation and location of the animal too).

The only other thing you could from there after that is allow the wildlife professionals do their thing. Once an animal arrives at a rescue and rehabilitation facility, the process begins. During rehabilitation, an animal must have very little to no human contact to prevent it from imprinting on human care takers. One part of rehabilitation is long term treatment by veterinarians. This treatment can include surgery, bottle-feeding orphaned animals, and giving sick animals anti-biotics to prevent infection. Rehabilitation can usually take months, or sometimes, even years. Some facilities even provide animals undergoing rehabilitation live fish in order to teach them how to hunt, while some marine animals, like sea turtles undergo physical rehabilitation in medical pools in order to help rebuild strength loss from oil spills and cold-stunning seasons.

Once rehabilitation has been completed, and they are releasable, a decision must be made regarding where the animal should be released since most marine animals are migratory. There, researchers will search for a location that is best suited for releasing an animal.  For example, when releasing newly rehabilitated seals and sea lions, it’s best to release them in areas where haul-outs are common, and are away from human contact. But, if an animal has a condition or has been in a situation where they have a very little chance of surviving on their own, then researchers can then have the power to declare them as non-releasable. A non-releasable animal is then transferred to a zoological park that houses animals of the same species as the one that is rescued. They will then, live out their lives in human care.

If you would like to learn more how to get involve with wildlife rehabilitation, please visit  http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/what-we-do/rehabilitation-release/what-we-do-rehabilitation-1.html

http://www.seewinter.com/ for more information.