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Palm Coast Thursday, Jun. 14, 2018 1 year ago

Trainer Tales: A day in the life of Marineland dolphin trainers

From fish preparation to flipper examination, take a deeper look into the lives of Marineland Dolphin Adventure trainers.
by: Paige Wilson Community Editor

In celebration of Marineland Dolphin Adventure's 80th anniversary, the Palm Coast Observer documented a day in the life of Marineland dolphin trainers to showcase behind-the-scenes moments with trainers and their flipper friends.

Sunny plays with a football, which is one of the objects Marineland refers to as a "Environment Enrichment Device," used to change the dolphin's environment and is reinforcement for good behavior. Photo by Paige Wilson

“It’s definitely a full-time care position, that’s for sure. We take care of every aspect of these animals’ lives from making sure the diet that they get is the best possible quality that we can provide, to making sure that they’re enriched throughout the day and that we’re changing things up for them.”

- DYLAN GOETZ, dolphin trainer

St. Johns County family, John Lanican, Collier Wright, Lowndes Wright and Mary Lanigan Wright, float next to trainer Caitlin Rose as they instruct Aqe to propel himself with his flipper. Photo by Paige Wilson

“I’ve spent a couple of months over in the public education side of things as part of my career path here. And one of my favorite things is really just getting the guests involved. You come out of an interactive program and you got your guests hands-on with the animals and you can kind of see that connection that they’ve made, which is the same connection I made when I was 9 years old. So, it’s just being able to see how you kind of inspire guests.”

- DYLAN GOETZ, dolphin trainer

Julie Wendt, associate curator of animal training, inspects Zac's flipper in one of the seven pools at Marineland. Photo by Paige Wilson

“It’s really a great deal of dedication and loyalty, but you get to have a dolphin for a best friend.”

- JULIE WENDT, associate curator of animal training

Dylan Goetz keeps his eyes peeled on the dolphins in the water, ready to blow his whistle to indicate they performed a task correctly. Photo by Paige Wilson

“I kind of fell in love with the whole idea when I was nine years old. I went to SeaWorld San Diego and saw the orca show and just fell in love with the whole thing. Marine biology was my passion throughout high school, throughout college. … I got my internship here when I was a junior in college and just completely fell in love with the facility, with the history here and how much we’ve learned about these animals and then really just the opportunity to interact with these animals on a daily basis — it had me sold. So, I came back as a seasonal trainer. We make connections with these animals. Any of these trainers would do anything for these guys. I definitely feel like that’s a big part of why I love this job so much. … That connection between trainer and animal is one you don’t really get in other jobs.”

- DYLAN GOETZ, dolphin trainer

Coquina and Casique jump gracefully out of the water as spectators watch. The trainers use a specific hand signal to instruct the dolphins to jump for exercise purposes. Photo by Paige Wilson

“It means a lot to us to have the opportunity to take care of such special animals because, not only can we make a big difference in these dolphins’ lives, but we can really connect people to these individuals, show them the relationships we have with them and then teach other people to care about them.”

- JULIE WENDT, associate curator of animal training

Trainer Tess Shacknow tosses a Herring into a bucket for one of the dolphins after inspecting it for any imperfections, including missing fins, eyes or ripped skin. Photo by Paige Wilson

“The relationship between dolphins and trainers is basically the most important thing. You get such a strong relationship with these animals — just like pets at home.”

- TESS SHACKNOW, dolphin trainer


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