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July 7, 2012
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Dolphins do have the concept of possessions.  Just because they have something you might not think they should have, don't try and take it away.  Margret Howe learned this with Peter when for a time he took possession of her diving mask.

A quiet day at the petting pool.  Not too many people around.  It was foggy and wet today.  Good for me, few people around the tank.

One of the younger Dolphins swims up and drops a penny on the underwater ledge in front of me.  Where did he get a penny?  Did some other visitor drop one in on purpose?  Cetaceans are sometimes trained to bring any trash in the tank up to staff.  They are given fish for bringing it in.  Does he consider me staff because he knows me almost as well?  Or is this another game?  Some people might be worried he could swallow it.  I know they're smarter than that.  He's floating there in front of me about two feet away looking at me, waiting for me to do something.

I had to be very discrete about this.  If another visitor or staff saw the penny it could be a big problem.  

I could just remove it.  No, it's his possession, can't do that, he brought it to me.  Can't let staff walk by and see it there, then they'd think I put it in.  I swish my hand in the water to wash it off the ledge and into deeper water.  He gets excited and watches the penny float down a few feet then swims after it.  He brings it back up and drops it on the ledge again.   I swish my hand again and wash it off again.  He goes to get it and brings it back again.  Ok, could be a game, or he could still be trying for a fish.  He's not opening his mouth like he's expecting a fish, so it must be a game.  I pick it up and hold it in my hand out of the water.  He continues to watch me, so I try to make up a new game.   I put my hands together out of the water so he can't scan them and switch the coin to my other hand.  I make two fists and put them back in the water.  He moves a little closer and I can see his head moving left and right as he looks at each hand and presumably scans them with sonar.  He moves in to touch his beak to one hand.  The hand with the penny.  I open my hand to show it to him and drop it in the water off the ledge.  He seems happy with this.

He swims down to get it and brings it back again.  I randomly choose a hand and put two fists in the water.  Again he picks the correct hand.  Time after time he picks the hand with the penny.  Simple to do with sonar.  Maybe not the best game but we were having fun.

One time instead of picking it up I washed it off the ledge while acting like I was picking it up out of the water as usual.  I made my two fists and put them back in the water.  Scan Left.  Scan Right.  Wait, What?  Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right.  He seemed confused as he couldn't find the penny.  I opened my hands.  He turned so he could see my empty hands.  He looked from one to the other, then turned a bit more to survey the ledge around us, then back at me.  I laughed to myself and reached out and pointed down over the ledge.  He dove down.  Shortly he came back and dropped the penny on the ledge again.  He glared at me a bit when we made eye contact again.  I think still a bit confused about how it happened.  How did I fool his sonar and how did he miss that?  A few rounds later I tried this again.  This time as soon as he scanned both hands and found no penny he dove down the wall and quickly came back up with the penny.  He dropped it much further back on the ledge than he normally did which was normally just a few inches.  We made eye contact and now it's like he knows what I did.  Can't hide from the all seeing sonar.

We go through a few more rounds and I try it again.   I don't know if he saw it or sonar gave it away but as soon as it cleared the ledge and started down he turned to follow it down without scanning my hands.  Almost as if to say "Aha, I caught you".  He didn't even drop out of sight before he stopped and came back up with the penny, having grabbed it before it hit bottom.  I tried several more times and only managed to fool him once more.  Sonar is hard to fool.  Nothing hidden.

This game had been going on for a while now and I was getting a little concerned.  While I knew this was a harmless game, staff would go ballistic about a coin in the tank.  He wouldn't stop bringing the coin back now that he found someone who would play with him with it.  There was no way I was going to take his coin away now.  I needed a break so on the next round when I dropped the coin and he swam down to get it I just walked away.  I hated to do that but it was the only think I could think of to satisfy all sides.   Let someone else incur his wrath for taking the coin.

I wonder what he would have done if had a second penny to put in the other hand.
  • Listening to: Dustwave
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:iconbondedwiththesea:
bondedwiththesea Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2012
That sounds amazing! I would love to try that, but I'm not going to be the one to throw a penny into the pool to see what they would do, as much as I may like to. Maybe when I'm able to visit more often I'll be able to get to know some of the animals on a more personal level, and then we can have some fun :)
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:icon0rcinusorca:
0rcinusorca Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012
Well, he brought the penny to me, it was his 'toy'.
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:iconbondedwiththesea:
bondedwiththesea Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012
Yeah, I know. I've heard of Juno at Mystic trying to do the same thing with his toys, although he's not in a petting pool so he ends up tossing them out at guests over a 15-20 foot wall. I think they may have gotten him to stop that though. That would be fun though, to be able to make up games with cetaceans. :) They're so curious!
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:iconrobindv:
RobindV Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2012  Professional Photographer
I had similair games like this with dolphins, they can get so excited from these simple things! I am also familiar with the problem when you're playing as a visitor and it's time to move on. Here in Harderwijk the trainers use a signal for 'session ended' so the dolphin know not to expect more. Comes in handy when playing too.
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:icon0rcinusorca:
0rcinusorca Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2012
Games are the most elevated form of investigation.

Albert Einstein

They probably had one there too but I didn't know it.
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