I’ve got some stories to share from my first three days at DRC! I’ll go by animal:
Dolphins: “Our middle name is research,” literally, says DRC’s public speaker Julie, and yesterday I got to see my first dolphin research session. DRC is the only facility that allows the public to view their research sessions, so this was quite a treat. Talon, a 19-year-old male, can recognize sequences of numbers from 1 to 5. He ranks in the 90th percentile and has a very high success rate — when I watched him he only made 2 mistakes! The trainers position Talon in front of a blue board, onto which they lower the numbers 1 thru 5 in a random order. Once he is given the signal, he touches his rostrum (nose/snout) to the numbers in their correct order. Pretty amazing stuff!
Sea Lions: DRC has 3 California Sea Lions: an 8-year-old male named Kilo, and two “elderly” females, Karen and Renee. The girls haven’t even been at DRC for a full year, and have only recently gotten accustomed to actual bay water (as opposed to the freshwater tanks they were kept in for most of their lives). Today, for the first time, the ladies actually waddled down the stairs into the lagoon and swam around! Karen is older than Renee and has gone completely blind, so she was only in for a little bit before she swam back to her trainer for some fishy treats. Renee, however, who still has some of her eyesight, kept on exploring the lagoon for more than fifteen minutes! The best part was when Renee swam beside one of the fences that separate the lagoons and realized that there were dolphins on the other side. She started barking joyfully, and the five dolphins in that lagoon, Jax and Gypsi in particular, started whistling and cheering her on. It was such a cute exchange!
Birds: Last but not least I had some fun encounters with our tropical birds. DRC has wild peacocks that roam the grounds, and I was treated to a full peacock feather display yesterday! I never knew that in addition to spreading out their feathers in a brilliant display of color, they shake their hard back feathers to make a rustling noise and make the “eyes” of the long feathers vibrate. Also, the fanning out of the top feathers leaves the lower down feathers exposed, so when they turn around, you can see a big fluff ball of soft down feathers — cute and unexpected! Another bird first was my first conversation with Buck, DRC’s sulfur-crested cockatoo. He’s quite the character, and once he realizes you’re the one giving him treats, he speaks to you! His phrases include “pretty bird!” and “bye-bye,” as well as whistles and other incoherent mumbles. I thought I’d never get him to speak but now every time I walk into the avian hut he’s got a lot to say! =]
Just a few anecdotes from my first couple of days at DRC — I can already tell I’m going to miss this place!