After a well-deserved break, the dolphin study team on board the Dolphin Explorer was back on the waters surrounding Marco Island on Monday, September 19th and they were looking for something very special…baby dolphins! This is the primary birthing season in this area and there was no disappointment in the team’s findings.
Although no new calves were seen on the 19th or 20th, Thursday September 22nd produced the much anticipated sighting! The team has a list of females that are potentials to give birth this fall and, near the top of the list is a young lady named Orange. This female raised a calf named Swoop for nearly four years and Swoop just left mom’s side in early August, a strong indication that mom Orange might be pregnant. It was a matter of time before a new calf was expected and, on the 22nd, at the entrance to Collier Creek, we saw several dolphins swimming toward shallow water.
Almost immediately the crew noticed a small, dark figure next to one of the dolphins and it was, indeed, a brand new baby! A dark, charcoal gray with white vertical lines known as fetal folds gave evidence that this new calf was just a few days old. It was right at Orange’s side with mom being the only source of food and protection that this baby would know.
Accompanying Orange and her newborn were Jing Jing and her one-year-old calf CJ and two other adult females, Sintas and Kaya. Sintas’ three-year-old, Jimbo, recently left mom’s side and Kaya’s four-year-old son, Ariel, also left mom recently. Both of these females are high on our list as expectant mothers and we anticipate they, too, will give birth very soon.
Back to Orange. This is her second offspring. Swoop was born in 2018. At four-years-old, Swoop had learned well from Orange and was ready to face the world on its own. To further explore the family tree, Orange’s mom Sparky is still in the area and is seen quite often. This makes Sparky the grandmother of Swoop and the newly born calf! To top it off, Sparky may be pregnant! Wouldn’t it be interesting if Sparky and Orange, mother and daughter, both gave birth in the same month! This means that Orange’s new baby would be an aunt or uncle and not even a month old! Hold your breath, we’ll see what develops.
Now, a big, popular question you are asking is what is the new calf’s name? Well, we let people on our excursions name a newborn when seen for the first time. To compliment mom Orange, the names Peach and Raspberry were suggested. Discussion on board concluded that Raspberry might be too long of a name. Did the guests go with peach as the name? No! They shortened Raspberry and we can welcome to the world RAZZ!!!!
Razz is actually the third youngster born this summer/fall. Female Batman gave birth to Gotham at the end of July and Avery gave birth to Snowflake (very appropriate for Florida) in early August. But we’re not done!
We anticipate that Sintas and Kaya will be moms again soon. In addition, females Sparky, Nadine, Rakes, KayCee and Dolly are high on our list. Also, there is usually an unexpected surprise from another female or two that have a new calf. Stay tuned!
Keeping track of the genealogy and survival rate of the young is a huge part of our research. Fortunately, all nine calves born last year and now celebrating their first birthdays have survived.
In the last four years, 28 of 32 newborn babies are alive and well. This data is very important and is shared by our team with other dolphin study programs and colleges, among others.
It is the goal of the team to bring as much accurate and important information to these institutions as we can and to make learning fun for all of the guests who join us.
As for Razz, say hello to our little friend! Wouldn’t it be great if Razz’s grandmother, Sparky, gave birth this fall and Razz, at one or two months old, would have a new niece or nephew! Stay tuned!
Bob is the lead naturalist for the dolphin study team on board the Dolphin Explorer. He is the author of two books and is twice a national award-winning author for Coastal Breeze News. He is a regular speaker at area venues and a member of Florida SEE (Society for Ethical Ecotourism). Bob loves his wife very much!