May 26, 2010

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

This is a new category of the Magnum Arts blog, which includes posts that will be of interest to artists but not directly connected to cartooning or drawing. This blog continues to evolve, becoming what I hope will be a fun, informative place to stop on your travels through the Internet. The first post of this new category is about the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the wonderful work they do there rescuing sealife in order to return them to the wild. The aquarium has an operating room, an intensive care unit for turtles and is home to rescued turtles, fish, otters and the most famous dolphin in the world, Winter.

(all photographs copyright Magnum Arts, 2010) click on all pictures for a larger view
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium's most famous resident is Winter, a dolphin that has become world famous. Winter was caught in a drag fishing line and the harder she tried to swim away, the more the line cut into her tail.  Most dolphins who become trapped end up dying.To save her, it was necessary to amputate her tail.  She was severely anemic and malnourished when she was rescued, and the staff nursed her back to health, although the emotional trauma Winter endured remains. The aquarium invented a brilliant prosthetic tail and special membrane that fits over Winter's lower body that allows her to swim like any other dolphin. Winter resides in a shallower tank; she is still too nervous about being in the deep water tank.Below: Winter in her home

Above left: Winter Dolphin
Above right: Winter's prosthetic tail
Left: A close up of poor Winter's amputation. Winter has become an inspiration to people who have lost limbs, and in fact the prosthetic tail has inspired new designs for prosthetic limbs for people. Winter is truly a special dolphin

The aquarium's main mission is to rescue animals, nurse them back to health, and release them back into the wild. The animals that live at the aquarium cannot be released because they would not survive. The aquarium is first and foremost a working animal hospital, which also educates the public.

This is Indy and Nicholas, two  delightfully playful dolphins rescued by the aquarium. They are also the stars of  daily dolphin shows, showing off for the crowds. Here they are being fed by two lucky visitors.

You can tell the two apart by the white patch on Nicholas' back. (below; Nicholas is on the left)  It's a sad story.

As a young calf, Nicholas followed his mother as she beached herself on Indian Rocks Beach in December (hence the name). His mother didn't survive, and Nicholas almost didn't either.

When he was rescued he was anemic, malnourished and he had sunburn - yes dolphins can get sunburn just like us. With dolphins, it's much more serious; it's like 2nd and 3rd degree burns. It took Nicholas nine months to recover from his burns. Because his mother never taught him how to catch fish in the wild, Nicholas can never be released - he wouldn't survive. The good news is he's thriving under the care of the aquarium staff.

The food prep area where food for the dolphins and other animals are prepared each day. The food standards exceed those of most restaurants. The animals are well fed and well looked after.

Indy and Nicholas demonstrate the force of their powerful tails during the dolphin show. They are natural performers, and being intelligent animals, enjoy the applause and reaction from the crowd.


There is a large tank with a collection of stingrays which have had their stingers removed, and visitors can pet them! How cool is that??

The aquarium has a boat excursion called the Sea Life Safari that cruises the inter-coastal, takes samples of sea life from selected sites to gauge the health of the marine environment, and also lands on a small spit of land in the middle of the channel.

Left: fascinated girl scouts on the tour watch as a net is cast to see who is living on the bottom

Right: examining the catch

 Among the catch this day was a soft bodied mollusk that "inks" when threatened, like an octopus does. You can clearly see the ink in the cooler, with the creature in the small plastic container.

Right: close up of the "inker"

Below: watch as this species of puffer fish blows himself up as he feels threatened.

 To visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's home page, click on the logo. It's a cool website; they have live web cams, a news blog,  photos of its residents, and information on special events and exhibits. Consider becoming a member. The work the aquarium does rescuing and caring for animals requires all the support they can get.

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