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Checking in with the dolphins

Published July 26, 2011

The National Aquarium’s dolphin colony is a dynamic, close-knit group that is made up of mostly mothers! Nani, Chesapeake and Jade are mothers to three of our young dolphins. Nani gave birth to Beau in 2005, and Foster was born to Jade in 2007. Bayley was born to Chesapeake in 2008 and she will be 3 years old tomorrow!

Spirit and Maya were also born here at the Aquarium in 2001, and this is the first year they produced calves. In late June, we shared the sad news of the loss of these two dolphin calves. The loss of the calves proved to be upsetting and stressful not only for the staff, but also for the dolphins themselves.

From years of working with these animals, we know that dolphins are very social animals. When something of this nature disrupts the group, the animals get upset. In this case, the moms were distressed, which in turn created stress in the entire colony. Social changes can be very upsetting for every dolphin in the group.

The health and welfare of all of our animals is of first importance. In the weeks following the loss of the calves, staff decided that the best thing to do for the dolphins was to discontinue shows and other programs until our Animal Health team and trainers are satisfied that normal social behaviors have returned.

We are continuing to watch the animals and give them every opportunity they need to recover as a social group. Today we are happy to report that the dolphins are stable and responding very positively to their trainers. We anticipate that shows and other programs will return soon. Until further notice, instead of regularly scheduled dolphin shows, we are inviting all visitors into the amphitheater to watch our dolphins interact with each other, and stay for an impromptu training session or show rehearsal. This experience is included with the general Aquarium admission ticket. As soon as the dolphins are ready, we will add shows back into the schedule, and make tickets available online and onsite. While visiting the amphitheater, guests may have the opportunity to see the trainers teaching the dolphins new behaviors or engaging with them in enrichment or play sessions. The types of behaviors included in the show are also very enriching for the animals, and they normally respond positively to participating in shows. Ultimately, our primary commitment is to the health and welfare of our animals. Our animal health experts and dolphin trainers work closely together; every day, they spend time with each individual dolphin to see how he or she is responding. If the animals begin showing signs they don’t want to participate, then we’ll take another step back and give them the time and attention they need. We appreciate the support we’ve received from our wonderful members, friends and followers. We remain devoted to keeping our visitors and supporters regularly updated on the status of the Aquarium’s animals, who help us all connect to and better understand this great, big, watery planet.
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