This week, we students had our first ever unsupervised session from start to finish! What a surprise that was. We spent some time with Louie, Jax and Gambit. Jax was rescued from Jacksonville, MS after he had an encounter with a bull shark. He is missing part of his dorsal fin and tail flukes, and has multiple scars on his side. Interestingly enough, he was not unrelease-able because of his injuries but because of how young he was when he was found. He had not learned all of the behaviors from his mom that were necessary for survival. Louie was found in Louisiana after the BP oil spill in 2010, he was actually the first dolphin that was rescued after stranding. Gambit was born at DRC and is the youngest dolphin in the “flipper lineage.”
So, what exactly happens in a session? It is usually when time is spent at one lagoon with one group of dolphins. Each dolphin has a symbol that they recognize as theirs (similar to name tags) which will tell them where they will be and which trainer they will be with. All of the signals are put into the water at the same time, signaling the start. Sessions are when the dolphins are fed, they do better if they are fed throughout the day so each lagoon will have multiple sessions during the day. In the process of feeding, the dolphins will be assessed each day to keep an overall idea of an individual’s health, relationship building between dolphins and trainers will take place and they will also get some exercise by doing some high energy behaviors. Each dolphin’s session is also concluded at the same time so that the nobody thinks anyone else is getting more fish than them. Guest are also able to participate in sessions. So, while it might look like just playing around – each session is primarily for the health and well-being of the dolphins which can be assessed through playtime and being close to them.