x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

It's a girl for the Dubai Dolphinarium

After a month of speculation, the first dolphin born at the facility has been identified as a girl after a flipped-over swim-by.

A newborn, female dolphin swims next to her mother at the Dubai Dolphinarium.
A newborn, female dolphin swims next to her mother at the Dubai Dolphinarium.

DUBAI // After a month of speculation, the first dolphin to be born at a marine centre in Dubai has been identified as a female.

The sex of the pup, which was born on October 10 at the Dubai Dolphinarium, was discovered only yesterday when the mammal learnt to turn on its back while swimming.

"Only the mother is allowed to touch the pup," said Alexander Zanin, the centre's head marine mammal specialist. "For one month we didn't know if it was a boy or a girl."

The baby bottle-nosed dolphin has been learning different swimming techniques from the mother, a 20-year-old dolphin named Ksyusha, since the first week after it was born. Segregated from the four other aquatic mammals in a side pool, the infant swims repeatedly in a circle, imitating mum's every movement.

"It's similar to learning to ride a bike," said Mr Zanin, who has been training dolphins for four decades. "In the first week she was learning to leap out of the water like a dolphin. After flopping into the water a few times, she soon picked it up."

The pup has not yet been named. The dolphinarium, which opened in May 2008, will hold a naming competition next month.

However, the team at the aquarium have provisionally named her Nike after the Greek god of victory.

She is currently being milk-fed by her mother and will make a gradual transition to eating fish over the course of the next year. By the end of that period she will be mature enough to begin training for performances.

The pup has already grown significantly and has added 20cm to her initial 70cm length at birth. She has also added some 3kg and now weighs about 10kg.

Despite Mr Zanin's lengthy experience with the mammal species, which he says is "not work, but a way of life", he still professes to not know as much about the dolphins he trains as he might do.

"I still can't understand them," he said. "They are extraterrestrials. We are inhabitants of the planet earth. They are inhabitants of the planet ocean. They live in a different world to us."

 

mcroucher@thenational.ae