Minnesota Zoo's youngest dolphin makes her public debut
APPLE VALLEY, Minn. The Minnesota Zoo's 3-month-old dolphin calf's public debut Tuesday drew oohs and ahhs from an adoring crowd consisting mostly of preschoolers. Gates to the front pool where guests can see the female youngster up close were op...
APPLE VALLEY, Minn.
The Minnesota Zoo's 3-month-old dolphin calf's public debut Tuesday drew oohs and ahhs from an adoring crowd consisting mostly of preschoolers.
Gates to the front pool where guests can see the female youngster up close were opened for the first time Monday night.
All three dolphins swam between the front and back pools Tuesday as the calf acclimated to her new environment.
"If she's not there when you arrive, be patient," marine-mammal supervisor Diane Fusco said. "Chances are you'll turn around and walk away, and they'll be back."
The calf, which has yet to be named, swam next to her mom, Allie, 23, and sometimes her grandmother, April, 42. The zoo is holding a contest to name the calf.
Both older dolphins can be glimpsed petting the calf with their pectoral fins, which is a sign of affection, Fusco said.
"Her relationships with Allie and April have been fun to watch," Fusco said. "There's lots of touching."
Fusco described the calf as sassy, inquisitive and bold.
Trainers have just recently begun interacting with the calf, feeding her pieces of ice and small bits of fish, which Fusco said she rejects because she's still nursing.
She doesn't just nurse from mom, though.
"They kind of tag-team it sometimes," Fusco said. "It's not unusual for dolphins to spontaneously lactate around a calf."
Fusco expects that as the calf grows, the adult dolphins will spend more time playing with her, especially grandma April, who is the more
playful of the mother and daughter.
But the calf is already displaying her own playfulness.
"Last week, she spent a lot of time sticking her tongue out," Fusco said. The calf also pauses in front of the window where trainers observe her experimenting with her buoyancy.
The calf is about 4 feet long and weighs 60 pounds. Marine-mammal staffers have closely monitored her and say she is doing well.
Dad Semo, 45, who is one of the oldest reproducing male dolphins in human care, is being kept separate from the females. Male dolphins do not participate in the rearing of a calf and can sometimes be aggressive toward the mother or the calf. Semo will be introduced to the calf when she is strong and well bonded with her mother.
Jessica Fleming can be reached at 651-228-5435.
Name The Calf
To offer a name suggestion for the calf, go to mnzoo.org.
One entrant will win a dolphin encounter for five people, and five other entrants will win zoo tickets. All entries will be considered but may not be used.
The contest ends Oct. 31.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.