The physical and mental well-being of the animals under our care is our number one priority. We emphasize intimate and genuine interaction between humans and dolphins. The number of participants is strictly regulated, and the dolphins are free to interact spontaneously.
The care and training of the dolphins for all of our programs is based upon the following idea: Whenever the dolphins respond correctly - they are rewarded. If they make a mistake - we simply try again or move on to a different request.
In effect we reward the correct and ignore the incorrect. This is called the operant conditioning method of positive reinforcement. Specific behaviors are gradually taught and shaped by providing the dolphins with a variety of "reinforcers" for desired responses.
These rewards are praise and attention from trainers, food (fish) and tactile (touch). It is very important to note that we are adamantly opposed to withholding food as a means of motivation. All animals are fed a required daily diet regardless of "performance".
Our animal care staff carefully schedules and regulates the public programs, avoiding routine and repetition in order to ensure that the dolphins are not burdened by their activities. The dolphins' enthusiastic and energetic response to these programs is indicative of their level of interest.
The lagoons are spacious and not sectioned off into individual pens. Thus, the dolphins themselves reserve the right to halt any program by simply leaving an area inhabited by visitors.
We consider our open water program to be symbolic of the cooperative relationship that the trainers have developed with the dolphins. As the dolphins accompany the trainers on daily excursions to the open ocean, they are free to leave or choose to return “home”. At “home” the dolphins enjoy a dynamic social environment. The individual animals of Dolphin Academy exhibit natural patterns of association among one another. They also maintain the ability to forage and feed themselves. In fact, mothers teach their calves how to catch fish just the way they would do in nature.