Alfonz – Over the past few months, Alfonz remained ‘healthy as a horse’ and continues to be the 500+ pound goofball that we all love. Recently, Alfonz had the pleasure of working with one of our Level 2 Interns on a new behavior called the “Sprinkler”. Alfonz is usually the first dolphin that new trainers work with, as his patient demeanor is perfect for trainers who are still learning their craft as animal trainers.
In addition to working with our Level 2 Interns, Alfonz has also been working with some of our new trainers to review previously learned behaviors! This not only gives our trainers the opportunity to navigate behavior modification techniques aimed to correct behavior, but also gives Alfonz the chance to perfect his behavioral repertoire. Needless to say it’s learning season for Alfonz – Ha ha!
Bob – Over the past few months, Bob spent quite a bit of time perfecting his “create” behavior. During this behavior, we offer Bob a hand signal which means “What do you want to do?”. Following the hand signal, Bob can emit any behavior he wants… the only rule is that, over the course of the training session, he can not repeat a behavior previously offered in the session. The Create behavior is known as a “cognitive” task and helps us
keep Bob’s mind active and engaged.
Like Alfonz, Bob helps us train future trainers. Each week, graduate students from the University of Miami (RSMAES) work with Bob as they practice applying positive reinforcement training techniques. Bob is one of our “go-to” dolphins for teaching novice
trainers, and he seems to be very excited each week to work with these students!
Baby-Bit – B.B. has been working with Jacky to learn a “Belly Breach” behavior. In order to accomplish this goal, Jacky teaches B.B. to lift her head and tail flukes up as she lands in the water and creates a giant splash. Currently, Jacky prompts BB to do this behavior by using two target poles, but over time BB will need these prompts less and less. Knowing B.B. – she will perfect this new breach behavior in just a few months!
Dinghy – The oldest member of our pod continues to show us each day that age is just a number. Dinghy is doing great and learning many novel behaviors. Her recent veterinary lab results show Dinghy is healthy and going strong! We could not ask for more!
In the past few weeks, Dinghy will occasionally leave her assigned trainer to participate in behaviors with the guests - without trainers asking her to do so! Although this never fails to make our training team and the guests laugh, we want Dinghy to be patient, be able to wait her turn, and share the guests with other dolphins in the lagoon. Thus, her training team devised a training plan to encourage Dinghy to be patient. Over the next couple of weeks, the trainers will focus on reinforcing Dinghy much more when she is patient and waits at the platform with her trainer than when she leaves station and runs off to do behaviors with guests. (They will skew her reinforcement to stationing at the platform)
We love how much Dinghy enjoys interacting with our guests!
Jessica – Jessica recently hit a huge milestone as we were able to obtain a fully-voluntary weight. You might remember that earlier this year, we were working on getting Jessica to lift her tail flukes while she was on the scale so that we could get an accurate weight each
week. Kayla has spent many hours teaching Jessica this aspect of the beach behavior and, just last month, Jessica started to offer the complete “scale” behavior. Jessica recently weighed in at over 400 pounds, which is an ideal weight for an animal of her age.
Beyond this, Jessica is also working on her back dive behavior. This high-energy behavior is the perfect challenge for Jessica and requires her to problem solve and exercise. Typically, this behavior would be fairly easy for a dolphin to learn, but Jessica’s partial visual impairment makes training the behavior more of a challenge. Kayla must use her creativity when planning Jessica’s training sessions in order to set her up for success. However, Jessica and Kayla make a great team because Jessica is now completing the behavior directly in front of the platform. The next step will be to move the behavior into the middle of the lagoon! Go Jessica and Kayla!
Jett – Recently, Jett participated in a voluntary slide-out and restraint for a transport to his new home at Dolphins Plus in Key Largo.
As Jett matured, the decision was made to move Jett to a more age-appropriate social structure. In the wild, bottlenose dolphins typically leave their mothers between the ages of 2 and 5 to join groups of other sub-adult dolphins. Thus, this transition is pretty normal for both Jett and his mother Jessica, who are both doing well with the social change. Jett now has a new home with his older brother and sister at Dolphins Plus where he is growing into an independent young dolphin.
Although this move has been bittersweet and we will miss seeing Jett daily, our entire team is excited for Jett and are elated that he is doing so well in his new home. Members of our team still work with Jett periodically at his new home to ensure a smooth transition. Although this is our last update from Jett (for now, at least), we will continue to ensure Jett is well cared for and will provide any exciting updates to our followers as they occur.
Tug – Since his brother’s move to Dolphins Plus, Tug is “ruling the roost” – or at least that’s what his three pool mates let him think ;). Nonetheless, Tug still spends the majority of his time with his mother when they aren’t interacting with trainers or guests.
In true Tug fashion, he continues remains full of energy and is eating nearly 10 pounds of fish now! His trainers are channeling all of this energy into training a few high-energy behaviors, such as the “front flip”. Tug can now do a full one-and-a-half rotation above the surface of the water with the guidance of a target pole! In the next few months this behavior should be complete.
Additionally, Tug regularly teaches two of our trainers ‘waterwork’. This term refers to trainers getting in the water with the dolphins to play and build relationships during training sessions. Tug seems to find waterwork very reinforcing, and there is no denying the trainers also find swimming with the dolphins reinforcing!