Two dolphins at Brookfield Zoo are celebrating their first birthday together. Merlin and Magic the dolphins took two very different paths in life but have arrived at this milestone together.
On October 28 Magic was born at the zoo. Keepers sensed something was wrong though and found Spree, the mother was not providing adequate care to the young dolphin. Keepers decided to take on the round the clock care of the calf. They helped him to reach many milestones including eating solid food on his own and now turning one. Recently he has even been integrated as part of another dolphin family.
Magic is not the only young dolphin at Brookfield though with young Merlin born on October 16 also celebrating his first birthday recently. He was raised by his mother, Tapeko who is 33.
Both dolphins have recently gone on exhibit in the zoo’s Seven Seas Underwater Viewing Gallery and at the Dolphins in Action Program.
Senior Vice president of animal collection and care for the Chicago Zoological Society, the people in charge of Brookfield Zoo, Bill Zeigler expressed the keepers feelings on raising magic, “Caring for Magic this past year has been a zoo-wide effort involving the collaboration of several departments that provided him with around-the-clock observation, care, and support, as well as input from colleagues at other marine mammal facilities. Through advancements in cetacean husbandry, training, and medicine, enhanced standards of care now exist for these newborns, giving them a better chance at survival.
Keepers had to pour everything they had into caring for Magic with a marine mammal staff member in the pool with him 24 hours a day. This continued for 6 weeks in a special nursery pool set up just for him. Keepers had to feed him, socialise with him and conduct behavioural observations to make sure he was growing properly.
Keepers would record his weight and growth, “The data assisted us in making daily decisions regarding his constant care and now contributes to the knowledge we can share on caring for baby dolphins,” said marine mammal curator, Rita Stacey.
His formula had to be changed each day to suit his condition and over time the amount needed to be increased as his size did. At three months old Magic had to begin adapting to fish and stop drinking formula. It was also important through this all that he gained a trusting relation with his caregivers as they provided for his needs. Once he had learned to eat his own fish at 6 months old he could move to a larger habitat. Then he began to learn swimming between the different habitats.
Soon enough he was ready to meet his half-brother Merlin and his mother Tapeko who he joined when he was eight months old. This was after keepers had got into the water with Merlin and escorted him to meet the pair several times.
Through being with Tapeko and Merlin Magic has been able to learn proper dolphin social behaviour. Stacey said, “To see Magic with other members of our dolphin group is one of the most amazing experiences that I and the marine mammal staff have experienced. Seeing his progress from being totally dependent on us to now socializing with the other dolphins is very rewarding. The entire staff is extremely proud of Magic and all that he has accomplished. He is truly an incredible animal and a survivor.”
Keepers have also studied the behaviour of the two dolphins in the hope of discovering the differences between hand and mother raised dolphins.
Photo Credit: Brookfields Zoo