March is Dolphin Awareness Month
The month of March is when you celebrate and raise awareness of dolphins.
Whether you have been a dolphin enthusiast or just prefer to watch them from afar, there are some fascinating facts about these intelligent mammals.
In honor of Dolphin Awareness Month, there’s no better way to learn more about them than by observing them in their habitat at IMMS and getting to know their training process.
Marie Aimaguire moved from California to gain more experience as a care taker through an internship. Two years later, she is now an assistant animal trainer at the Institute for Mammal Studies. “I was very keen for the opportunity of being able to grow and develop these relations and trust with these animals to learn more about them and show other people, the public what we do and why these animals are so important to the environment and why we need to protect the environment.”
Training dolphins is a lot more work than people may think. “We do a lot of cleaning in the fish house. We make their buckets. We make sure their habitats are clean. We provide all different kinds of enrichments to make sure their lives are happy and healthy and then of course, we have our typical days where we have sessions with them that includes our regular training sessions with them.”
The dolphins at IMMS know 20 to 30 different behaviors, which some may call ‘tricks.’ Each dolphin is different when it comes to how fast they learn behaviors, which involve targets and hand signals. Assistant Animal Trainer Megan Koehn said, “We use positive reinforcement to train our animals and then we use something called the bridge, which is our whistles, and that is our way to tell the animals they did a great job doing what we asked them to do. They are all done and reinforcement is coming their way. We primarily use fish as their reinforcement.”
For more information about dolphins or their interaction programs, visit imms.org.