“I got a call at 6:45 a.m. (when the calf was being born) and by the time I got here at 7 a.m., he was swimming,” she said. The calf is about three feet long and weighs roughly 50 pounds, Holmes said, and still has fetal band striping that comes from being balled up in the womb. It will fade with age.
“He’s a robust little thing,” Holmes said.
Gulf World personnel are waiting to discover a little more about the calf’s personality before assigning him a name, Holmes said. Already, the calf is beginning to show a touch of independence as he tests how far he is allowed to wander from his mother before being reprimanded, Holmes said.
For the first several months of its life, the calf will stay very close to his mother, Brinnon, as he is learning basic rules of survival. Simple tasks like learning when and how to nurse, how to navigate swimming on his own and buoyancy, are learned by watching his mother and the two pregnant female dolphins — Sandy and Indy — who are in the same pool.
“The baby is in school,” Gulf World co-owner Brad Miller said. “Everyday, it’s learning something new.” When Sandy’s and Indy’s babies are born, the pool will become a small “nursery” until the calves are large enough to mingle with the other dolphins, Holmes said. Indy will be a young mother and Holmes said she is hoping Brinnon, who she called “an extremely good mother,” will teach her the ropes.
Staff members already are trying to build a relationship with the calf, but that progresses only as fast as Brinnon will allow, Holmes said. Although trainers have a good relationship with the mother, she is still protective of her calf. Plans are to keep the new calf at Gulf World, and he might become available for visitors to see as soon as Brinnon seems comfortable with the idea, Holmes said.
After a long drought in their breeding program without a viable male, Holmes said the staff was excited to welcome two calves last year. However, the first two years of a young dolphin’s life are critical, and both died in infancy, she said. The new calf represents a new hope.
“We’re always excited about any pregnancy,” she said.