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Rebecca Powers Swims with the Dolphins
WLOX Video by Rebecca Powers May 15, 2011

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Dolphin Ready to Make a Splash in Gulfport
WLOX Video by Trang Pham-Bui May 10, 2011

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Dolphins Make a Splash on Coast
SunHerald Article by Mary Perez- May 10, 2011

GULFPORT -- Two Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins are making a splash at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

Since May 2, Bo, the female dolphin, and Buster, the male, have performed for school groups touring the Center for Marine Education and Research.

“This is the grand finale,” said Sharon Walker, director of education and Outreach Programs. After the students finish viewing the underwater adventure film and visit the touch pool, they come outside to admire the dolphins. “They love it,” she said.

With a twirl of the trainer’s hand the dolphins spin. A clap of the hands makes them speak, and when they finish a series of three jumps, they return to their trainer for a fishy treat.

Tours and dolphin shows are by reservation Fridays and Saturdays. The center also is open for birthday parties and summer camps.

“The reason we did this is the public has not seen dolphins since Katrina,” said Moby Solangi, executive director of IMMS. “We brought them back.”

These aren’t the same dolphins that survived Hurricane Katrina smashing into Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport. Solangi said they are Mississippi dolphins that worked with the U.S. Navy in Hawaii doing acoustic research before they were flown to South Mississippi in January.

“The male enjoys the attention a lot more than the female does,” said Tim Hoffland, director of animal care. The dolphins not only perform, they also help teach visitors about their dorsal fin, blow hole and teeth.

Buster and Bo are both about 30 years old, weigh more than 400 pounds and are about 8 feet long. Bo hasn’t had any calves survive, but the staff is hopeful she will.

Beginning Memorial Day weekend, visitors will be able to pet the dolphins and even get into the pool with them.

Solangi said the center already has tropical birds, horseshoe crabs and turtles. “The next thing is to get sea lions in,” he said. They will be coming from California, hopefully by summer. Visitors also will have the opportunity to pet stingrays and sharks when a new building opens in the summer.

Solangi said the new Gulfport shows are focused on education. He hopes to begin site work for a new Ocean Expo attraction in D’Iberville within a month, and open 18 months later.

“D’Iberville is more entertainment and for the public,” he said, while Gulfport is a center for research and education. “The kids want both and we’re going to give them both,” he said.

Article by Mary Perez

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