SeaWorld Orlando, Georgia Aquarium and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Return Rehabilitated Dolphin Attacked by Shark

Bottlenose dolphin found with life-threatening shark bite injuries gets a second chance at life

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 29, 2018) – Yesterday, members of the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team and the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) returned “Sharkie” to the ocean near St. Augustine, Fla. after an intense four month rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando. The 265 lb. sub-adult Atlantic bottlenose dolphin was rescued in February on Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. after FWC reached out for assistance due to the animal’s life-threatening injuries. Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station veterinarian, Dr. Rose Borkowski was on scene alongside FWC and conferred with NOAA Fisheries after assessing the animal and the decision was made to transport the animal to SeaWorld Orlando’s Cetacean Rehabilitation Facility.

The dolphin, which had sustained multiple shark bite wounds to her body and right pectoral flipper and was suffering from pneumonia, was successfully transported to SeaWorld Orlando where she has been receiving rehabilitation care for the past four months.

“Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station is proud to be a part of the initial rescue and release of this dolphin following its lengthy rehabilitation. Now, seeing it healthy enough to be released shows the dedication and hard work by all those involved,” said George Biedenbach, director of the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station. “Our goal is to always assist animals in need as best we can, no matter the circumstances and we’re glad to see another animal thriving. Every animal counts and it’s through collaborative work like this that we can ensure the health and safety of so many ocean animals.”

“This is a very exciting day for us. To see this animal in the state she was in, bitten by sharks, emaciated, in trouble and with life threatening injuries, to as healthy as she is now to swim back out in the ocean, it’s just a wonderful day and that’s why we do this,” said Jon Peterson, Manager of SeaWorld Rescue Operations.

During her stay, SeaWorld veterinarians and the Animal Rescue Team provided 24-hour care to the dolphin, treating her with antibiotics, dewormers, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and wound care. Prior to her release, the dolphin was fitted with a satellite tag which will enable stranding network partner organizations to continue to monitor her.

The dolphin passed a major milestone in her journey to return when she passed a hearing test in April administered by NOAA Fisheries with the help of SeaWorld. The testing showed the dolphin has full hearing through the entire frequency range necessary for echolocation. It is important for dolphins undergoing rehabilitation to pass a hearing test to ensure hearing loss was not a factor in their stranding. Hearing loss is detrimental to wild dolphins, as they rely on echolocation to hunt, navigate and avoid predators.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Team is on call 24/7 to save and care for injured, orphaned or ill animals. In collaboration with NOAA Fisheries and other members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates one of the world’s most respected programs authorized to rescue ill and injured marine animals, with the goal to rehabilitate and return them to the ocean. SeaWorld animal experts have helped more than 31,000 animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned and abandoned – for more than five decades.

Footage of rescued dolphins produced by SeaWorld under the National Marine Fisheries Service Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

 

About Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station

Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station (GA-CFS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Marineland, Fla. GA-CFS is dedicated to research and stranding response of dolphins, small whales, and turtles in northeast Florida and focuses on research and conservation. The team at GA-CFS supports Georgia Aquarium research projects both in the field and on-location and provides unique expertise and experience. GA-CFS exists to increase public awareness and contribute to the scientific study of aquatic life and provides educational outreach to local communities and schools. For more information visit www.georgiaaquarium.org/conserve

 

About SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 31,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., a publicly traded company. Visit www.seaworldentertainment.com for more information.

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Dolphin Attacked by Shark Continues to Receive Care at SeaWorld

SeaWorld Dolphin shark attack 1

All photo from footage of rescued dolphins produced by SeaWorld under the National Marine Fisheries Service Marine Mammal Health and Response Program.

An Atlantic bottlenose dolphin that was attacked by a shark in late February off Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and became stranded as a result of the injuries continues to receive treatment at SeaWorld Orlando.

The 265 lb. sub-adult dolphin was assessed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) who determined that a rescue and rehabilitation attempt was necessary due to the animal’s life-threatening injuries. Members of the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team and the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station (based at Marineland) worked alongside to care for the badly injured dolphin. Conservation Field Station veterinarian, Dr. Rose Borkowski conferred with NOAA Fisheries Service about the animal’s condition after the assessment and the decision was made to transport the animal to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation.

At time of the rescue, SeaWorld veterinarian Dr. Lara Croft described the dolphin as being in “critical condition,” based on the “extensiveness of this animal’s shark bite wounds” and how thin she was. The dolphin sustained multiple shark bite wounds to her body and right pectoral flipper.

20180406 SeaWorld Dolphin shark attack 2The dolphin was successfully transported to SeaWorld Orlando’s Cetacean Rehabilitation Facility for further evaluation and rehabilitation. After an initial veterinary exam and treatment, the dolphin was able to swim unsupported at the park’s rescue facility.

Through the course of her treatment, SeaWorld Orlando veterinarians discovered that in addition to shark bite wounds the dolphin was suffering from pneumonia. Over the last month, SeaWorld veterinarians and the Animal Rescue Team have been treating her with antibiotics, dewormers, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and wound care.

This week, veterinarians performed radiographs to confirm if the antibiotics and treatment are clearing up the pneumonia. They will continue to monitor and run additional tests to confirm.

Once her pneumonia clears, the next milestones for her rehabilitation will be for her to continue to gain weight and strength and pass a hearing test. All rescued cetaceans must pass a hearing test administered by NOAA Fisheries to ensure hearing loss was not a factor in their stranding. Hearing loss is detrimental to wild cetaceans as they rely on echolocation to hunt, navigate, and avoid predators.

The SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team and veterinarians will continue to provide 24-hour care and treatment, with the ultimate goal to rehabilitate and return her to the wild.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Team is on call 24/7 to save and care for injured, orphaned or ill animals. In collaboration with NOAA Fisheries and other members of accredited stranding networks, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates one of the world’s most respected programs authorized to rescue ill and injured marine animals, with the goal to rehabilitate and return to the ocean. SeaWorld animal experts have helped more than 31,000 animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned and abandoned – for more than five decades.

Footage of rescued dolphins produced by SeaWorld under the National Marine Fisheries Service Marine Mammal Health and Response Program.

About Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station

Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station (GA-CFS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit  organization located in Marineland, Fla. GA-CFS is dedicated to research and stranding response of dolphins, small whales, and turtles in northeast Florida and focuses on research and conservation. The team at GA-CFS supports Georgia Aquarium research projects both in the field and on-location and provides unique expertise and experience. GA-CFS exists to increase public awareness and contribute to the scientific study of aquatic life and provides educational outreach to local communities and schools. For more information visit www.georgiaaquarium.org/conserve

About SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 31,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

 

Dolphin Born at Discovery Cove

Congratulations to Rose, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin who lives at Discovery Cove, SeaWorld’s all-inclusive day resort. Her female calf was welcomed into the world Wednesday, February 12, at 5:35 a.m.

Congratulations Rose! Your calf is beautiful.

Congratulations Rose! Your calf is beautiful.

The yet-to-be-named little girl is nursing and bonding with her mother, which is a good indicator that she’s doing well. This is Rose’s second birth, and the 27th dolphin born at Discovery Cove since the park opened in 2000.

Stranded Baby Dolphin Rescued by SeaWorld’s Animal Care Team

A baby dolphin, believed to be just 5 days old and with his umbilical cord still attached, was rescued Sunday, May 20, 2012 near Three Sisters Island in Volusia County. The male calf weighed slightly less than 35 pounds and was found in shallow waters under a mangrove.

Initial tests revealed no major health issues, but SeaWorld’s animal team will manually tube-feed the newborn every two hours. Dolphin calves usually nurse for 12 to 18 months.

“Dolphin calves typically nurse from their mother until they are 12 to 18 months old.”

Pedro Ramos-Navarrate, Supervisor of Animal Care, along with SeaWorld’s animal team are working tirelessly to ensure the calf continues to grow and thrive.

This successful rescue was the result of a team of Animal experts and volunteers. The Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute initially examined the dolphin. Once NOAA Fisheries Service authorized his rescue, SeaWorld’s animal rescue team brought the baby dolphin to SeaWorld for care.

SeaWorld’s animal rescue team is on call 24/7 to save and care for injured, orphaned or ill animals. This is the first bottlenose dolphin to be rescued this year.

Discovery Cove at SeaWorld Takes Your Breath Away

Discovery CoveMy 4-year-old, Daniel, is used to being up close and personal with marine life. As a visitor to SeaWorld and Bush Gardens well over 100 times in his short life (not to mention countless visits to zoos and other animal-themed attractions) he’s pretty much a pro when it comes to interactions. Our visit to Discovery Cove, however, has raised the bar so much so that I fear his expectation of “normal” is forever altered!

Walking into the check-in/lobby building, Daniel first noticed the incredible art. He bent over to examine the mosaic floor. “Look, Mom. It’s like waves,” he said as he then proceeded to show me how many shades of green were represented, and how many blue. His neck craned up: “Look, Mom, at the dolphins!” Above us graceful dolphins appeared to be floating, breathtaking fiberglass on steel crafted by artist Michael Linenbroker. He looked at it from multiple angles, checking out the white fish “swimming” with them. Our feast for the eyes had begun, and we’d only arrived minutes before.

Once our entire group had arrived, our guide walked us out of the main building toward the Reef. “This is a magical path” my son informs me as we make our way along the nature path past Serenity Bay and Dolphin Lagoon. He knows he’s going to see tons of sea life, and is thrilled to find a corded “fish I.D.” card he can take with us for the day. I was happy to find it, too, as he’s extremely curious on specifics. (I can no longer get away with: “It’s a bird, or a plant, or an airplane.” It’s a Toucan, a Dusty Miller, and a Cessna!)

After donning our wetsuits (sans Spanx, dang it), our little band made tracks for the shore. We easily found a locker for our gear and a chair for our towels. Despite being at capacity for the grand opening of the new attraction, we didn’t feel crowded. Even  “full” was not shoulder-to-shoulder like some places. We felt free and easy, with plenty of “elbow room.”

After our guides gave us the lay of the land we walked into the water, snorkeling gear in hand. A cow-nose stingray swam past us at about “knee deep,” causing aforementioned 4-year-old a moment’s hesitation. Initial fear melted into an ear-to-ear grin followed by wild expressions of delight. Great big eyes looked up at me as he asked, “Can we go way out there?!”

I knew he’d fall in love with Discovery Cove, but I had no idea it would be so hard and so complete. Everywhere he looked there were birds, tropical fish, marine mammals… you name it. At the center of his fascination was the brand new Grand Reef.

With a footprint of 2.5 acres and close to a million gallons of water and 5 million pounds of pristine, sifted beach sand, the Grand Reef is home to thousands of tropical fish and dozens of rays including spotted eagle rays that have a 5-foot wingspan! Behind glass we found eels and, holy moly, sharks!

We balanced on rock formations (man made, like the removable coral so as not to be sharp) and bobbed and floated and swam to points near and far checking out the abundant marine species, and marveling at this unprecedented view into their world.

We did attempt the snorkeling gear, LOL!

I would have loved it if my little man could have used the mask and snorkel to better see the curious and colorful creatures in our midst, but he may be a little young… this trip. He couldn’t quite get it into his head that something covering his eyes and nose (and being tight and pressing on his face) was a good thing. His mom, however, put the gear to good use (with dad nearby to watch the boy). Swimming nose to nose with a stingray whose eyes were larger than mine was awe-inspiring, I can assure you.

“I don’t see how I could ever return to common life after this,” thought we all (quoting “Anne of Green Gables”).

Sure you may have gotten goose bumps at SeaWorld interacting with the marine life and riding the awesome rides. And OK, your family has giggled with delight while whooshing down the slides at Aquatica…. But if you’re ready for your next BIG close encounter with all you love from the marine parks, do not miss Discovery Cove. I’m already counting the days until I, too, can return.

Get the Sensation at One Ocean at SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld’s new killer whale show was unveiled recently with a splash! (Understatement of the year!) Crowds, as you can imagine for opening day, were heavy, but we managed to get a seat. (We joking referred to ourselves as “ceiling fans,” we were SO far up in the stadium.) In our subsequent visits we’ve made it a point to arrive 30 to 40 minutes early to get the up-close-and-personal seats. Why? Well, first because it’ breathtaking being close to the whales, and second because you “get the sensation.”

Young children are naturally curious. Talking about events like this by discussing the senses is a super introduction to not only science, but language arts. And they learning to be good observers and communicators, all while recounting a fun, FUN show.

We started with the five “primary” (or most-known) senses.

What did we hear? Uplifting and up-tempo music, of course, but we also heard the sound of water splashing as the whales jumped out of the water, then BOOM landed again. We heard the crowd giggling and screaming when they were hit with the splashes and the water crashing on the stadium seats.

What did we see? Majestic, huge!, shiny black-and-white beauties, caring trainers, TONS of water, huge screens that moved, lots and lots of people having the time of their lives. We pointed out some of the whale’s anatomy: rostrum, fluke, blow hole, dorsal fin and eyespot. And look, up in the sky… it’s a bird. But he’s not part of the show! It’s just a white feathered friend trying to sneak a snack.

How about feeling? Did we feel anything… unusual? Well, when we sat up in the upper balcony we felt the smoothness of the seat underneath us and the gritty concrete of the stadium walls. Normal stuff. On subsequent visits (when we sat in the Zone), however, we also felt wet… REALLY wet as we felt the splash from the pool!

One Ocean

Get the Sensation of Being SPLASHED

We smelled snacks, and the faint smell of fish when the wind caught it “just so,” but didn’t taste anything until the show was over and we re-filled our popcorn bucket (you certainly don’t want a full bucket getting soggy in the show, now do you?).

There are more than five senses. It’s actually closer to 20. One of the many “lesser-known” senses we described is thermoception which, to my young child, we called hot/cold. One minute we were “enjoying” (ahem) the Florida heat and then WHAM! a wall of extremely cold water made our skin shiver as goose bumps appeared.

Our balance helped us maneuver up and down the steps and kept us from toppling off our seats when we were hit with “the wave.” We could tell time was passing as we waited for the show to begin and were impatient for it to start. (And, curiously, time seemed to go quicker during all the fun!)

Describing what we sensed not only helped fix the memories in our minds, but helped my son use his exploding language skills.

One Ocean was fun. It was thrilling. It was (dare I say it?!) SENSEational! And it was, yet again, an educational experience for the whole family, cleverly disguised as a whale of a day.

Training and Parenting Have Quite A Lot in Common!

I’ve watched the various whale and dolphin shows at SeaWorld more times than I can count. One of the things I find most intriguing is the outpouring of love they show the animals and the seemingly endless supply of patience they exhibit… even when the animals have no intention of performing on cue. As an audience member, I can tell the hope is that Shamu will swim “that” way. But once in a while he just doesn’t feel like it. I watch the ballet of trainers moving around the stage… encouraging… hoping…. But no. Not now. And you know what? They just go to the next thing. It’s what I aspire to as a parent.

Parenting takes a lot of hard work. (Insert pause where you say, “Well, no duh!”) Sometimes it seems to come effortlessly, while at others you may feel your child has literally been replaced by an other-worldly being who has, apparently, never, no never, been told certain rules, understood explained consequences, and hasn’t ever been allowed to get his/her way. What seems, to you the parent, like a simple request that will ensure a quicker chore completion so you can all get on to the fun is, to your darling, sweet-faced child, tantamount to a request to scrub the floor with a toothbrush. Wouldn’t it be great if there were ways to reinforce those positive behaviors we want from our children while having the ability to overlook ones that aren’t so great?

Enter Operant Conditioning.

The trainers at SeaWorld use operant conditioning to encourage the animals to perform certain behaviors. Basically they positively reinforce particular activities so much that the animals do them more often because good stuff happens when they do. (When you go to work and receive a paycheck, you are conditioned. You do the work, you get the reward.) Trainers also seem to ignore behaviors that are unwanted. No one gets mad. No one goes to time out. Hummmmm.

I enrolled in a free two-week training event at a website called “Positive Parenting Solutions.” Apparently the Alderian psychology they espouse is quite similar to operant  conditioning. It seems people (and animals) coexist better, and with fewer bad behaviors when love is freely given, faults are overlooked, and relationship-building actions are rewarded. Wow. What a concept. (Imagine the look of irony on my face, OK?)

I don’t purport to be an expert trainer, and heaven knows I’m a parent in training. (Um, universe, if you could throw me a “good girl” fish right now that would be swell.) I can say, though, that I have literal goosebumps watching the whales and dolphins majestically  leap through the air or twirl through the water. And yes, I have had tears in my eyes seeing the overwhelmingly apparent mutual affection the trainers have with those in their care.

My child does not (poor thing) have a team of people who spent years in training to learn how to care for him. It’s just me and his dad. And we’re learning as we go.  We don’t always respond with patience. And we have, from time to time, focused on the negative. Oh, and all right, I admit it!, we’ve been inconsistent when consistency is what he needs most. Sigh.

It is my hope more than anything that my child grow up to feel secure and loved… so much so that his behaviors exude both confidence and compassion although I won’t expect him to swirl through the water like a graceful dolphin and pose on the mark. OK, I might want him to smile for the camera if Grandma is taking a picture.

What! No judging! I’m still her child and certain behaviors are reinforced….

Not Spooky at All: SeaWorld’s Spooktacular

Halloween is, for some, a time to get scared, to play “tricks,” and to dwell on the… shall we say… creepy things of this world… and things other-worldy. (Insert Vincent Price maniacal laugh here.) For me it’s none of those things. It’s about playing dress up, making new friends as you “forage” for candy and other tasty treats, and having an excuse to be just plain silly.

Last year my then 2-year-old really enjoyed Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld. He wore a pumpkin T-shirt since it was a bit hot for his “real” costume, but there were kids fully decked out as well as wearing street clothes. All were welcomed and treated as if they were the most adorable child there.  (In case you were wondering, his “real” costume was Smarticus the gladiator. His mom (yours truly) was “Mother of Boy” instead of Helen of Troy. Dad was… wait for it… Dadius Gladius–pronounced: Dad he is, glad he is. Yes, we’re that nerdy. And yes, he was adorable!)

Walking down the entrance to the “Spooktaclar walkway” (as we call it), we were greeted by bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles. For a toddler, this is one spectacular way to be welcomed to the festivities! Whoa. A fish on roller skates just whizzed by us. Or was that sea weed? And a butterfly catcher?!

Down a ways we came to the first candy stop. Big inflatable barrels shaped in an anemone-type shape are practically overflowing with tiny, tasty treats. Mister Shy-when-he-wants-to-be is hesitant to go up at first. “Hey there, little guy,” the SeaWorld worker says. Smiles are exchanged, and my young man is loosening up. He gets a bit more comfortable as he continues on and even gets “brave” enough to have his picture with a beautiful mermaid. (Usually mommy is the only girl lucky enough for this.) Fully acclimated to the sights and sounds, we were off to fill our goody bags. (Yes, parents are allowed to sample, too. Score!)

On the way to Abby Cadabby’s maze we pass by dog fish. And catfish. And other assorted creatures of the deep (and some from someone’s fabulous imagination!). Photo opportunities abound, and I took them up on every one!

Older kids were not as impressed with the maze as my toddler was, but for his age-group it was perfect. At different way points, Abby’s friends posted signs about which way to go. Parents read aloud and kids answered silly/cute questions. Eventually they reached the finish line and they all, including mine, seemed pleased with themselves.

Along the shore you can find the hysterical Longshoremen at SeaWorld

One of the highlights, however, was watching the Longshoremen perform their pumpkin routine. You won’t find their schedule posted on the daily map (rats!), but you can find them “along the shore” most afternoons making people laugh. I think we sat down for their show every weekend of the event. FYI: “pumpkin guts” can be made using rope, shaving cream, and a tiny bit of orange tempera paint. Who knew?

Next stop: Shamu’s Happy Harbor where Penny Penguin, Opie Otter, and other strolling characters show us their costumes. Shamu (the character version!) can also be seen donning a fanciful getup. (Say, I wonder what he’ll be for Halloween this year!) After a few photos, and rides!, we made our way to the Pets Ahoy theater.

Seasonally, the fun is changed for a couple of shows a day and the Sesame Street gang, not the pets, are the stars. The Count takes over for the “Countdown to Halloween” and delighted fans sing along. OK. Their parents sing along, too.

While no frightening laugh track is piped in over loudspeakers and the only things jumping out at you are the dolphins and whales out of the water, SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is our kind of fall festival. Good, clean fun. Adorable children. Smiles. And pop! More bubbles.

SeaWorld Birthday Party and Cake

There’s so much to celebrate at SeaWorld… conservation, beauty, marine life, family. We enjoy it so much that when my son suggested a SeaWorld theme for his birthday party we were all for it! And the icing on the cake was, well, the cake!

I started out by baking two half sheet cakes in one flavor, and three 8-inch rounds in another (so chocolate lovers could have their favorite, and non-chocoholics were good to go, too). Not sure how a person does not like chocolate, but who’s to say?!

I made a strawberry filling for the yellow cake filling and a chocolate ganash for in between the chocolate layers.

The fondant was store-bought and I added blue food coloring until I got the just-right ocean-y feel! Meanwhile, a friend of mine helped by whipping up a batch of buttercream frosting. (Thanks MW for everything!) We had two bowls: one was for the blue color, and one was for white.

I rolled it out and covered the 8″ rounds that were now filled and stacked. Once the two large rectangles were similarly filled and layered, I covered that part of the cake with the blue buttercream icing. Then I placed the fondant-clad round off to one side, touching both a long and short side of the base cake.

The sides of both the round and base cakes were given a fresh garnish of additional white icing, just piped on really thick at the base. Then I put a fork into the blue gel food coloring I’d used to color the fondant. I pressed it into the white and made a wave-type of motion and… voila! The dark blue mixed with the white to create a pretty realistic wave, if I do say so myself.

Since I’m not a professional cake maker, I couldn’t sculpt the whale, penguin, and dolphin out of sugar or gumpaste or chocolate or any other edible product for that matter, I simply used three of my son’s “Little People” characters and made waves around them.

What was awesome and edible were the sharks, “baby” penguins, fish and rocks that completed the look. (Thanks again MW!) Purchased at a candy store, these little jimmies added dimension and were absolutely delicious. (I could eat a bag of the chocolate rocks right now!)

After pushing the gummy sharks into the sides of the “wave area,” covering the “ocean floor” with rocks, and placing the bright-colored fish into the “foam” of the water, all that was left was to write happy birthday. I used some more of the fondant and cut the letters with plastic alphabet shape cutters.

We had a “baby pool” filled with stuffed dolphins and whales. We even created a “Penguin Encounter” (as per my toddler) where all his penguins and puffins could line up and the people at the party had to walk by “real slow” so they could pretend they were on the conveyor belt.

“Daniel is Three. Celebrate with the Sea,” stated our invitation. Everyone had a “whale of a day” and ate lots sea-themed foods and ocean-blue punch. We then had our cake and ate it, too.

Peek-a-Boo with the Dolphins at SeaWorld

My toddler loves to play “peek-a-boo.” For humans, the game teaches object permanence. Just because Mommy is hidden by her hands, she’s still there behind them. It makes me wonder if that’s what the dolphins are doing in the Dolphin Nursery at SeaWorld.

As a frequent visitor to the park, I make it a habit to drop in on the bottlenose babies. Which ones are still nursing? Who’s growing up fastest? How tired is that mother of her child? Whenever I visit I usually go to the same spot on the wall… then wait. It may sound absurd, but I swear some of them recognize me. I’ve found that a lot of the time two particular dolphins would make their way to my spot by the wall and begin bobbing up and down out of the water.

The behavior is called “spyhopping” and scientists believe it is done for obvious reasons… to view the world above the water (after all, echolocation is not useful in air). They seem, though, to be interested enough in the motions to continue as I “play” back. One bobs down and up. I crouch down below the wall and up. Dolphin. Human. Dolphin. Human. One day we took turns for at least 4 minutes. Back and forth. I see you. I see you!

I may be anthropomorphising by thinking they enjoy our little game of peek-a-boo. Maybe they just want to see if that lady is still there. Maybe I look like a trainer or, more likely, someone with food. I think that what I spy with my little eye is a beautiful creature who, whether or not she intends, allows me to feel connected with the sea and with the world in a soul-inspiring way.