The family of dolphins at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Ft. Walton Beach will be expanding. This fall, officials at the facility announced that two Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are pregnant. Delilah and Lily are expected to deliver their calves in the spring of 2014.
While living at the Gulfarium on Okaloosa Island, Delilah has had three prior pregnancies, with this being her fourth. Lily, who was born at the facility in April of 2003, will be delivering her very first calf. Even while pregnant, the dolphins remain an important part of the show.
“It was pretty impressive, I didn’t know they could do all those things you see, I mean you see YouTube videos and stuff like that but it’s neat to see it in person,” said Terry Pope, a tourist from Fairfield, California, who was seeing the performance for the first time.
Marketing and Communications Coordinator Krista Stouffer says regardless of the fact that the dolphins are pregnant, the main goal of the Gulfarium’s dolphin show is to educate and share what they know with the people who attend.
Further, she says keeping the expectant mothers active and participating in the show is vital, “As you can imagine that when dolphins in their natural habitat get pregnant it’s not as they stop moving entirely, they got to keep moving, they got to keep going, they still have to catch their food and escape predators. So, with Lily and Delilah here, it’s certainly important for them to get exercise, it’s certainly an important aspect of their pregnancies.”
Also, keeping a close eye on the performances -- and on the dolphins-- is Chad Stouffer, who is Director of Animal Management for the facility and happens to be Krista’s husband. He says that dolphins don’t always have successful births, their first time, so the staff has tailored the show accordingly, “Basically we remove any of the higher energy behaviors that would even give them the chance of hitting the water really hard on their belly, but you’ll still see them do their bows and regular jumps where they’ll go eight or nine feet off the surface and go back in head first.”
Despite some adjustment, the dolphins –who have a 12-month gestation period - are doing well, overall. At this point, about half-way through their pregnancies, Krista, Stouffer says the staff is cautiously optimistic, “We know that there is a lot of time between now and when they are to be born, anything can happen but we’re super excited for the possibility of having calves.”
The calves are expected anywhere from March to May and their births will be the first at the Gulfarium in a decade.