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Volume xviii, Issue 9 ~ March 4 - March 10, 2010

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This Week’s Creature Feature

Dolphin mother-in-watching due to deliver

by Sandra Olivetti Martin

Publicity is the price of celebrity. Nowhere is that truer than in the pool Jade, a nine-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, shares with six others of her species.

Jade is due to give birth to a dolphin calf any day now, concluding a second pregnancy that has been watched 24/7 since late February by a cadre of 50 trained volunteers working in three-hour weekly shifts.

Observers, writes senior dolphin trainer Kerry Martens in a blog (, “use Palm Pilots to record target behaviors as they see them.”

Telltale signs include “belly movement and arches and crunches, pronounced, deliberate stretches that increase in frequency the closer we get to birth.”

The lucky observer of the birth will have the most important job: watching and monitoring the mother and the calf.

“We rarely intervene during labor,” Martens wrote on Feb. 26. “We record information such as first-time flukes are seen (dolphins are born tail, not head first), when the calf takes its first breath and the first time it nurses.”

Just in case, the marine mammal staff has prepared a supplement of dolphin milk formula. While raising her first calf, Foster, Martens notes, Jade “shared nursing responsibilities with two other experienced dolphin moms.”

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