Coral World Ocean Park on Wednesday welcomed four Atlantic bottlenose dolphins to their new home at Coral World’s new St. Thomas Sea Sanctuary at Water Bay in St. Thomas, the aquatic park announced in a news release issued Wednesday.
The dolphins will participate in the park’s programming, which it said is designed to inspire guests to care for and protect the marine ecosystem.
“After seven years of careful planning we are thrilled to welcome four dolphins to the Coral
World family,” said Lee Kellar, Coral World Ocean Park general curator. “The dolphins will live in our newly developed St. Thomas Sea Sanctuary, a first-of-its-kind, 69,000 square-foot ocean habitat that introduces the dolphins to a natural environment with the added advantage of being cared for by licensed veterinarians and dolphin experts who are dedicated to their health and wellbeing.”
The four dolphins, who were born in human care, arrived from Dolphinaris Arizona. Marine mammal specialists who know the dolphins personally as well as veterinary specialists accompanied the dolphins on their journey to Coral World to ensure their every need was met, the park’s news release said. The team will remain with the dolphins until they are settled in their new home.
Coral World will study the dolphins’ behavior and new experience in the St. Thomas Sea Sanctuary and share research findings with the global scientific and veterinary community. The dolphins will spend time in the sanctuary’s specialty areas while they adjust to their new home.
The St. Thomas Sea Sanctuary – the first of its kind to be opened that meets the federal government’s Marine Mammal Protection Act and Animal Welfare Act requirements – features a large swim space safely enclosed by a mesh barrier. The sanctuary also includes several areas designated to facilitate animal healthcare and an area where dolphins can spend time away from other dolphins or guests if they choose. The habitat includes proactive safety measures, special liners and filtration systems that can be activated during natural or man-made emergencies.
Last week, the sea sanctuary successfully passed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspection, demonstrating the sanctuary meets or exceeds the agency’s standards for dolphin and habitat care.
The St. Thomas Sea Sanctuary is adjacent to the Park’s Dolphin Education Center, where daily presentations will educate guests about the intelligence and agility of dolphins and the importance of respecting the integrity of the marine ecosystem in which they live. Visitors will also learn how their own behavior can have a positive impact on the marine ecosystem. The Dolphin Education Center will also be the starting point for guests participating in Coral World’s Dolphin Experiences.
“The Dolphin Experiences are designed to provide visitors a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with our dolphins in a sea sanctuary setting, and educate them about the dolphins’ role in the marine ecosystem and how we can all help protect the species with small, yet effective conservation efforts,” said Trudie Prior, Coral World Ocean Park president and general manager. “Dolphins are animals that are familiar to people, and that is a gateway to helping us inspire guests to be a part of the next generation of animal advocates and conservationists.”
Coral World dolphin trainers will spend the next several months building strong relationships with the dolphins and helping them adjust to their new home before the marine mammals are introduced to the public. Once trust is built through positive reinforcement with the trainers, Coral World will design its Dolphin Experiences around each one’s unique personality, and likes and dislikes.
The dolphins will always have a choice whether or not they want to participate.
Coral World is accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, which Wednesday’s news release explained is “the preeminent accrediting body for zoos, aquariums and marine parks throughout the world dedicated to the highest quality of care for marine mammals and to contributing to their conservation in the wild through education and scientific research.”