Monday, 5 July 2010

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's baby dolphins make their public debut

A bit camera shy and sticking close to their mothers, two baby dolphins gave Six Flags Discovery Kingdom visitors a peek of their sweet faces and graceful swoops through the water at their official public debut Thursday.




The two new Atlantic bottlenose dolphin calves were born in May and June, respectively, but park officials kept quiet about their births until they got a little older, Discovery Kingdom Animal Ambassador Lee Munro said.

"The first month or so (after birth) is crucial so we let them be by themselves," Munro said. "Now people can get up close and see them."


Both babies are males and a contest is under way to give members of the public a chance to submit suggested names for the dolphins. Since the contest is sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines, submitted names must be Hawaiian.

The first male was born May 23 to its 23-year-old mother, Jasmine.

Meanwhile, 30-year-old Chelsea gave birth to the other male June 7.

The mothers were artificially inseminated via a male dolphin who lives at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Fla., Marine Mammal Manager Kim Lara said.

The two mothers and two calves share a large blue tank with a third adult female -- Aunt Sadie, who is a companion to them all, Lara said. The babies now weigh about 70 pounds and are still nursing, Lara said. They closely follow their mothers and have begun to play with one another, she said. At birth, they are about a third of the length of their mothers and weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, according to a park announcement.

After the calves begin to eat fish, Discovery Kingdom staff and trainers can train them to perform, and to take medications and participate in other medical procedures to keep them healthy, Lara said. Some dolphins stop nursing when they are several months old while others nurse much longer, she said.

With the addition of the two new calves, the park's dolphin population has grown to 15. Dolphin residents include Terry, who at age 50 is one of the oldest Atlantic bottlenose dolphins found in any Northern American facility, the park announcement indicated. Atlantic bottlenose dolphins can do well in zoos and parks as they tend to prefer shallow coastal waters, Lara said.

Those who would like to participate in the naming contest can get instructions at sixflags .com/discoverykingdom, or via the park's Facebook page. The names can be a word, phrase or name from the Hawaiian language, or related to Hawaii in some other way. Winning names will be announced on or about July 30.
Final winners will receive two plane tickets to Hawaii, four 2010 admission tickets to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, and a dolphin plush toy.


source: http://www.thereporter.com/news/ci_15427242

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