Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dolphin calves received a name!

No, they’re not two Bahamian women, but the newest members of the dolphin family at Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island.

After months of waiting and hundreds of name suggestions from Bahamian students across the country, officials finally announced the dolphins’ names Friday.

More than 500 students submitted names in the baby-naming contest, and submissions were continuing to pour in, but in the end three students snagged top prizes.

Dorothy Mae Eldmire of Kingsway Academy chose the name "Gussie Mae" and Nathalia Durham of Doris Johnson High School and Marissa Maura of the Lyford Cay School both won for choosing "Laguna."

Ms. Maura explained what led her to select the name Laguna.

"I chose the name because it reminded me of my fifth grade end-of-year class trip to Blue Lagoon Island. I thought it was really fun," she said.

Ms. Durham did likewise.

"Laguna is the Latin word for Lagoon. It is a shallow body of water connected to a larger body of water and it is where Laguna will make her home," she said

Ms. Eldmire also explained how she made her name selection.

"I think it’s the perfect name for a well-rounded Bahamian dolphin," she said.

Alyssa Harrison of the North Eleuthera Primary School, Andrew Kiriaze of the Lyford Cay School, Brandon Wilson of Saints Francis and Joseph Primary School and Tianna Bethel of Carlton Francis Primary School all received honourable mentions.

All of the students spent the day on Blue Lagoon Island and met the newly named dolphins.
The students who chose the names received plaques, pictures of the baby dolphin they named and a Dolphin Adventure programme for their entire class and their teacher.

The class will meet the dolphins face-to-face and the student winners will be given the opportunity to show their friends the dolphins they named.

The two baby dolphins bring the total number of dolphins over on Blue Lagoon Island to 19.
Robert Meister, managing director of Dolphin Encounters, said the operation has been very fortunate to have three dolphin calves born in the last several months.

"Through our many educational programmes, thousands of school children have met and have come to love our dolphins as much as we do and we wanted them to have the honour of choosing names for two of our new calves," he said.

"Picking from among hundreds of really wonderful names was extremely difficult, but the names Gussie Mae and Laguna stood out and suit the two dolphin calves perfectly."

Gussie Mae was born in early September to mother Chippy, and Laguna was born to Dot in October.

The third calf, a male, was born in September to Nina and was named Cacique by the Dolphin Encounters staff.

Kim Terrell, marine mammal director at Dolphin Encounters, said all three calves are doing well.
"Having three babies born around the same time is a wonderful accomplishment for a planned breeding programme. When dolphins successfully breed under human care, it is a scientific indicator that they are completely adapted to the environment in which they live," she said.
"The fact that 11 of our 19 dolphin family members were born at Dolphin Encounters makes us proud that the all natural environment we have provided is ultimately ideal for the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin."

Mr. Meister congratulated all of the students who sent in names.

"So many wonderful names were sent from many islands and we learned how much the children of the Bahamas care about our dolphins. As a Bahamian company with a family that is also 100 percent Bahamian we wanted our babies to reflect our culture. Gussie Mae, Laguna and Cacique are now the newest Bahamians to join our dolphin family," he said.

Since 1989, Dolphin Encounters has offered visitors a unique opportunity to interact with the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins, including the internationally famous "Flipper."

The dolphins range from newborn to 40 year-old. There are also six California sea lions.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"