Posts Tagged 'atlantic bottlenose dolphins'



Join us in Ocean City for the 2011 Dolphin Count!

One of the joys of going to the beach is being able to see dolphins surf in the waves, or spotting a group of seals resting off the coast. The National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program works hard throughout the year to monitor and respond to marine animals that inhabit Maryland’s coast, while educating the public about keeping our waterways safe and healthy for the animals we love so much.

This Friday, July 22nd, the public is invited to join Aquarium staff for the Annual Maryland Dolphin Count along the Atlantic coast of Maryland.

Annual dolphin counts help marine mammal specialists capture a snapshot look about dolphin populations, reproduction rates and ocean health. We have learned that bottlenose dolphins use Maryland waters as a thoroughfare for migration, summertime breeding, and feeding along the way. With the help of volunteers we will continue to gather and analyze this information and learn more about the state of our waters and the dolphin populations that are found off our coast. 

The annual Dolphin Count involves spending a few hours on the beach watching the water for passing dolphins and filling out a data sheet. Aquarium staff will be stationed at the following locations:

  • Assateague State Park (Day Use Area)
  • 40th street in Ocean City at the beach
  • 130th street in Ocean City at the beach

Members of the public are welcome to join Aquarium staff at one of the above locations! Just look for Aquarium staff in blue shirts looking toward the water for dolphins! The count will begin at 9am and end at noon. The event is free and open to the public. As a reminder, it is always helpful to bring the following items for comfort:

  • A beach chair or blanket
  • Water to keep hydrated
  • Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses
  • Binoculars, optional

On Thursday, July 21st, join us at Seacrets: Jamaica USA (49th street in Ocean City, MD) from 3:30pm – 9:00pm for a special fundraiser to benefit the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program. Aquarium staff will have games and activities for kids beginning at 3:30 and all cover fees will be donated to the Marine Animal Rescue Program from 5-9. Join staff and volunteers for fun games and activities, and learn more about their important work in Ocean City!

For more information on either event, email MARP@aqua.org.

So, how many dolphins do you think we’ll count?

Becoming dolphin moms

In the spring of 2001, the National Aquarium welcomed two dolphin calves into our dolphin family. Both Maya and Spirit were raised here at the Aquarium by their mothers, and have grown to become very strong female dolphins! They are now entering into the next phase of life: motherhood.

Maya and Spirit both became pregnant last year, and through medical examinations it was determined they would give birth in spring 2011, exactly 10 years after they were born.

Dolphin pregnancies and births are always exciting, but also require a great deal of work from our staff and volunteers. For the last year, our dolphin trainers, animal health staff, and volunteers have been working around the clock to ensure the best possible outcomes for the mothers and calves.

Regular ultrasound exams and daily observations became part of the staff’s daily routine. You may be wondering… how exactly did our animal health staff perform ultrasounds on animals that weigh more than 300 pounds? Well, both females are trained to come to the edge of the pool, position themselves on their sides, and remain stable and calm while the veterinarian performs the examination. This helped the staff monitor the development of the calves.

Vet exam

In the weeks leading up to the impending births, a team of staff and volunteers implemented a 24-hour watch to monitor the mothers for signs of labor and keep a close watch on their behaviors and overall health.

Now, after months of prenatal care by a dedicated team of vets, trainers, and volunteers, Maya and Spirit are swimming alongside their new calves!

On April 14, Spirit gave birth to a female calf…

Spirit and her calf

Spirit and her calf

and Maya followed two weeks later, with an April 27 delivery of a male calf.

Maya and Her Calf

Maya and her calf

It is certainly an exciting time in the dolphin pools, but our work does not stop here. Dolphin calves are extremely fragile in their first months of life, and even though their survival ultimately depends on their mothers’ care, we do everything we can to provide the right habitat conditions, nutritional needs, and care for the mothers and their calves.

Upon birth, calves must immediately learn how to breathe, swim, and nurse from their mothers. A quiet environment gives the moms and calves the best opportunity to bond in this way, so the amphitheater closed for a short time immediately following births.

Swimming Together

Swimming together as a group

In the past, we’ve been able to resume the dolphin shows in the front exhibit pool just a week or two after a dolphin birth, with moms and calves continuing to bond in the back pools. But because first-time mothers Maya and Spirit are still adjusting to their new roles, we have had to make changes to our normal dolphin presentation.

We are currently inviting visitors in for a quieter experience, but one that is equally fascinating! Through June 7, visitors who purchase the Dolphin Access Package will get an interactive, close-up experience that includes a meet and greet with our trainers, a rare opportunity to observe a dolphin training session, and a first look at a behind-the-scenes video of the new calves. And visitors may be able to catch a glimpse of the calves swimming alongside their mothers in the back pools when they surface to breathe.

As marine mammal trainers and veterinarians become more and more confident that the moms have had ample time to bond with their calves, we will gradually introduce more programming into the dolphin experience.

Spirit's Calf at 1 Month

Spirit's calf is becoming more curious and independent every day!

Staff and volunteers continue to monitor the mothers’ and calves’ behaviors closely. We use PalmPilots to track behavior observations and changes to eating patterns.

We thank you for joining us in celebrating the births! You can read more about our new moms and calves and watch a video on The Baltimore Sun.

Happy birthday, Bayley!

Today our youngest dolphin, Bayley, turns 2 years old! Bayley is the daughter of Chesapeake and Chinook. 

In between training sessions and shows, you can often see her chasing and playing with 3-year-old Foster, investigating new toys, or just resting and swimming under her mom, Chesapeake.

We have also seen Bayley blow bubbles underwater and play with them! They are in the form of rings or even long lines, which we call “bubble snakes,” which she chases and bites at.

Bayley is extremely energetic and eager to learn new things. She just recently learned the “high jump” behavior, in which the dolphin jumps up and touches a buoy suspended in the air. With her small size, Bayley only jumps about 10 feet out of the water right now, but as she grows bigger and stronger, she’ll be able to hit the buoy almost 20 feet in the air, like her big sister Maya!

Look for Bayley and her high jump in our show, Our Ocean Planet.

In lieu of presents, you can TXT the word ACT to 20222 to give Bayley a gift! Your $5 donation will support the care and feeding of Bayley and her 16,000 aquatic friends at the Aquarium.

Farewell to Chinook

From Kerry Martens, Dolphin Trainer

We recently transported Chinook, the adult male dolphin that has been at the National Aquarium on breeding loan for the past three years, to the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois.

Chinook was loaded into a specially made transport carrier and taken by truck to the airport. He was flown to Chicago with an Aquarium vet and trainer by his side. Upon arrival at Brookfield, he looked great and began to eat fish right away.  We heard that he is already showing interest in the female dolphins at Brookfield Zoo!

As part of a dolphin breeding consortium, we work with seven other zoos/aquariums to cooperatively manage and breed our dolphins.  Male dolphins are commonly moved from place to place to breed with different female groups.  This type of movement – male dolphins moving between groups of females for breeding – is also seen in dolphins in the wild.

While we are excited for Chinook to go on and become a father once more (2-year-old Bayley is his daughter), he will certainly be missed by the National Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Staff.  His attempts to gain the attention of our female dolphins were occasionally comical, spinning in front of them in the middle of the pool or making unique vocalizations, and his overall laid-back demeanor made him a pleasure to work with.

We’ll miss you, Chinook!

Bayley the dolphin turns 1!

The National Aquarium is celebrating a birthday! Bayley, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin born at the Bayley turns 1!Aquarium on July 27, 2008, is one year old today. The public is invited to share in her birthday celebration during the Aquarium’s first ever public enrichment building day on Saturday, August 8. Click here for details!

Bayley is one of 10 dolphins living at the National Aquarium. At one year old, she is still nursing from her mother but also eating about six pounds of fish a day. She spends most of her time with her mother, Chesapeake, and other adult female dolphins, but also plays with 2 year old Foster who shares the pools with her. She is very active and eager to learn and play, and is already participating in shows!

In lieu of presents, you can TXT the word ACT to 20222 to give Bayley a gift! Your $5 donation will support the care and feeding of Bayley and her 16,000 aquatic friends at the Aquarium.

Environmental enrichment is an important part of the care animals recieve at the National Aquarium. While these items may be seen as just toys, the animal care staff is actually encouraging natural behaviors and giving the animals something new to investigate in their environment. Animals engage in lots of behaviors and enrichment gives them the opportunity to forage, hide, explore and play.  Play helps many animals, including dolphins, develop behavioral skills they need throughout life. 

By providing simple, everyday items, such as paper towel rolls for birds or basketballs for dolphins, the animals can practice a wide range of behaviors. Interested in making enrichment items for your animals at home? Click here to learn more.

Bayley making a splash


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