Dolphin Quest has established an incredibly successful dolphin breeding program.
The Dolphin Quest animal management model is a holistic approach beginning with happy and healthy mothers prior to pregnancy.
Our marine mammal specialist team assists with close monitoring of the dolphins during pregnancy, birth and post-natal care. This is accomplished through collaborative behavior, ultrasound monitoring, and veterinary consultations. Our approach to proactively handling our calves for preventative healthcare, called Project Newborn, ensures that we continue to be leaders in calf survivability.
Here is an outlined summary of the successful breeding program at Dolphin Quest:
- Ovarian ultrasounds are completed on a regular basis on our female dolphins, which assists in tracking fertility cycles.
- Once the female dolphin is known to be pregnant, the fetus is monitored through regular ultrasounds with comparisons to established normative data and the mother is monitored for behavior, health, development and caloric intake.
- Dolphins are typically pregnant for approximately 12 months.
- As the due date approaches, the marine mammal specialist team prepares for the birth with 24-hour observations and detailed records of the female dolphin.
- Baby dolphins are typically born tail flukes first and are called calves.
- They are approximately 111-116.3 cm (43.7-45.7 in) in length at birth.
- The calf will nurse, drinking milk from the mother’s mammary glands, which are located on the underside of the dolphin’s body near the genital slit. The calf wraps its tongue into a straw like position to lock out sea water and maximize milk intake efficiently.
- The marine mammal specialist team continues to monitor the calf for respirations, nursing and growth for about two weeks post parturition. This information provides a data set of norms to help manage successful future births.
- A dolphin calf will spend much of its first few weeks with its mother, learning how to navigate their world.
- Due to a strong teacher/learner relationship with the marine mammal specialist, the mother dolphin quickly transitions back into training sessions seeking the enriching interactions while keeping a close eye on her calf.
- The calf becomes curious of its environment and begins to solicit attention from the marine mammal specialists, who are successful at rearing neonates and developing them into successful adults.
- The calf builds a significant relationship with the marine mammal specialists as they learn to eat fish, play with toys and interact with our guests.