For more than 40 years Dr Randy Wells has studied dolphins in the wild in Sarasota Bay. Much of his work has been supported (and vise versa) through the sister efforts of Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. Having grown up in the Chicagoland area, Brookfield Zoo is where I saw my first ever dolphin and fell in love with the species, creating a lifelong dream of swimming with them and maybe even working with them.
Brookfield Zoo has been the foundation of so many of my dreams. My first “favorite” dolphin was Nemo who was eventually moved to the Florida Keys and Hawk’s Cay Resort. I was in my 20′s when I was finally able to swim with the dolphins in my DolphinLab experience at Dolphin Research Center. I then spent time exploring the Florida Keys, falling helplessly in love with this amazing stretch of America.
Dolphins and Florida have been such a long and beloved part of my life.
So with great excitement I found out recently that one of those Brookfield Zoo dolphins I have known for many years, and had a personal encounter with when I participated in the Brookfield Zoo Trainer for a Day program, Tapeko is pregnant.
Tapeko is a 29 yer old dolphin with a lot of water under her fins at Brookfield Zoo’s Seven Seas. A practiced mamma dolphin she even filled in as surrogate mom when one of her daughters, a first time mom, struggled.
The father is Chinook, 28, (gotta love cougar dolphins) and together they’re set to bestow upon Brookfield Zoo’s successful program yet another little calf.
“Tapeko’s upcoming birth is a very important one for the success of our breeding group of bottlenose dolphins,” said Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society. “As an experienced mother, she will demonstrate crucial calf-rearing skills for the other females in the dolphin group, who will all be first-time mothers when their time comes. Tapeko will also allow the other females to swim with her calf, giving them ’flippers-on‘ training with young calves,” added Stacey.
Along with Tapeko and her boy-toy Chinook, the dolphin family at Brookfield Zoo includes her two daughters, Noelani (7) and Allison (5) along with Spree (8), Tatem, (7), and Nea (3).
Brookfield Zoo’s storied dolphin history mirrors the Sarasota project with a long and important run. About to celebrate its 50th year, both programs contribute to our knowledge, ability to help dolphin and create and sustain their important environment, our oceans.