Monday, February 29, 2016

Visitng the Dolphin Research Center, Florida Keys

The Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Florida Keys was founded as a non-profit in 1984, to ensure retired show dolphins, and rescue dolphins had a home for life.  The center provides unique educational and research opportunities.

This is Rainbow.  Nicknamed Bodacious or Bo for short. Rainbow has fathered two pups at the facility. Bo is an enthusiastic people watcher, spending almost all of his time hovering above the surface near the walkway keeping an eye on everyone, so the staff has to protect his head with zinc oxide sunscreen so he doesn't get burned. Rainbow's mother, Tursi is also at the facility.  She was born in 1973, and is the result of an off-screen romance between two of the original "Flipper" dolphins.  We got to see Tursi do her signature jump; she likes to shout loudly at the height of her arc.

The fences are low enough for the dolphins to easily jump over. Therefore life at the DRC is voluntary.  But why swim with the sharks when you are surrounded by friends, free food, and medical care?

Dolphins are very playful.  Below a trainer takes a dolphin through a few tricks, like rolling over, "swimming like a shark" (adorable), and diving for rings.

General admission includes a full day pass to the center.  For an extra charge you can swim with the dolphins!

And some dolphins like to paint!

The staff also trains the dolphins to receive future medical treatments.  In the top left picture they are administering a nebulizer over the dolphin's blow hole to rehearse for inhaled medication.  In the next two pictures, the trainers are drawing blood from a dolphin's fin.  Notice how relaxed she is!  At the bottom right, the dolphin is getting a drink of fresh, salt-free water through a throat tube, no doubt a useful way to administer medicine.

The DRC is also the home of a few California Sealions.

All in all, the DRC is fantastic fun!

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