From the Pod- March 2023

Alfonz – 

Spring break season is in full swing and, as usual, Alfonz is stealing the hearts of hundreds of guests who have the privilege to interact with him! 

Last month, we mentioned Alfonz was working on putting the finishing touches on his “Tumble” behavior. This behavior involves the dolphin performing a front flip at the surface of the water in a circle, all the way around the perimeter of the lagoon. Happily, the training team reports that Alfonz can now complete this behavior almost all the way around the lagoon without any help from his trainers. Alfonz’s training team is hopeful to add this behavior into his interaction programs soon so that guests can experience his impressive athleticism and cognitive skills in person! 

Additionally, Alfonz maintains the status of “big man on campus”, weighing in at 550 pounds! In order to ensure he doesn’t tip the scales too much, the trainers regularly task Alfonz with high-energy behaviors and encourage exercise throughout the day. Most recently, trainers task Alfonz and his lagoon-mate Bob with “Perimeter Bows,” a behavior where both dolphins jump in synchrony in three specific locations of the lagoon. You can imagine how challenging it must be to extract 550 pounds out of the water for a jump, but Alfonz seems to accomplish this with ease – demonstrating the dolphins' specialized adaptations for their environment and natural athletic prowess.


This month, Bob had the pleasure of meeting a plethora of school kids from around the country, on spring-break for field trips to the Florida Keys. As one of our longest dolphins, Bob is adept at demonstrating a dolphin’s strength and power when interacting with guests in the deep water. From his impressive tows to his high-flying jumps, you can’t help but be mesmerized by this guy! Our trainers love to see how excited and motivated Bob can be to execute these behaviors with the visiting students. 

When he isn’t interacting with guests, Bob spends a fair amount of time playing his favorite game of hide-and-seek with a rubber duck! During last month’s “From the Pod” we mentioned that Bob was learning to “Find the Duck,” which involves Bob scanning his habitat for a hidden duck toy. Bob seems to find this behavior so fun and reinforcing that trainers have started to use this game as a reward for participating in his healthcare/husbandry behaviors. As trainers, we always strive to find a variety of items, other than fish, that the animals find reinforcing. It appears we “struck gold” in teaching Bob to “Find the Duck”!


Baby-Bit – 

Last month, we reported that B.B. seemed to have forgotten her Front Flip behavior. After a few weeks of working with her trainers, B.B. re-learned this behavior and is back to “wow-ing” the guests who visit her each day with her impressive athleticism.

Recently, B.B. spent quite a bit of time working with her younger brother, Tug, during a variety of interaction programs and behaviors. Like most older sisters, it seems B.B. is not the biggest fan of sharing guests or trainers with her younger brother. Both dolphins are extremely energetic, so usually they make the perfect pair! However, lately, B.B. demonstrated that she prefers not to share a trainer with Tug, but rather seems much more motivated when she is working one-on-one. In response to this, B.B.’s training team are now concentrating on reinforcing B.B. for being patient and sharing with her brother, and in the past week B.B. has improved significantly! 

Speaking of sharing… we always share that B.B. is one of our most intelligent animals. Recently, Tug learned the “tumble” behavior and our trainers wanted to see if B.B. could learn this behavior, as well. However, instead of training this behavior via small baby-steps (approximations) with a trainer, we hypothesized that B.B. could copy Tug and learn the behavior through observational learning. We should have guessed this would be an easy task for Baby-bit…  within just a couple of training sessions B.B. learned this complex behavior ….simply by copying Tug.  

Dinghy – 

You could say Dinghy has had a “ball” this month! Despite being our oldest animal, Dinghy is constantly reminding us that you’re never too old to play. 

Typically, Dinghy’s son Tug will hide a ball each evening under the platforms and bring the ball out to play each morning. However, recently the trainers noticed Tug hasn’t been the one playing with the ball when trainers arrive the next morning… 

Instead – Dinghy is the one tossing the ball around and tucking the ball underneath her chest and pectoral flippers so she can float on top of it. It’s such a welcome sight for trainers to see that Dinghy’s playful spirit is alive and well!  

Jessica – 

Life is full steam ahead for Jessica who has made progress on both of the behaviors we reported in our February “From the Pod” update – her slide-out onto a scale and back-dive behaviors. 

Jessica stopped “beaching” onto the scale a few months ago and we were unable to obtain regular weights for her for a couple of weeks. As of the last update, we were close to getting Jessica on the scale again and, currently, we’re happy to report she is weighing each week successfully! Her most recent weight was 439 pounds, an ideal weight for our matriarch. 

Last month, Jessica was also learning to perform multiple “back-dives” in a row with the assistance of her trainers. Jessica now offers this behavior in the middle of the lagoon without too much guidance. Soon – her back-dive behavior will be complete and our guests will be able to ask Jessica to demonstrate the behavior during their interaction program. 

In other news, trainers are working with Jessica to place her tail flukes on the platform and hold them on the dock by herself, without additional support from trainers. Training this behavior requires close attention from her training team to monitor even the slightest movements in Jessica’s flukes and reinforce her at the exact moment she is applying downward pressure onto the platform. This can be tricky to communicate to Jessica, especially given her unique learning style, but, nonetheless, her training team continues to make progress on this behavior.


Tug – 

If you ask any of our trainers, they would agree that Tug is a miniature version of his father, Alfonz! This month, Tug progressed significantly with his stage-slide behavior, where he performs a “slip-and-slide” across one of the platforms in his lagoon. One of Tug’s favorite behaviors is the slide-out, so naturally, the stage-slide behavior is a perfect fit for this little athlete! Tug’s trainers report that he gets visibly excited when he completes this behavior correctly and definitely reminds us all of his father when he slides across the platform. 

With the increase in visitors over the Spring Break season, it becomes challenging for trainers to find creative ways to engage Tug during our interaction sessions. As a 6-year-old dolphin, Tug requires a lot of energy, attention, and variability in his interaction programs. Thus, Tug’s training team spends the majority of their sessions creating new games to play and teaching Tug to be patient (just like his father, he is always trying to predict our next move!). Giving Tug access to play on the slip-and-slide during interaction sessions is just one of the fun “new” games that keep Tug focused during our Spring busy season.  

Posted by Sydney Gangas at 00:36