Smoothies every half hour
When the calf began to nurse, milk spilled into the water around it. Now it can roll its tongue into a straw to capture mom’s high-pressure squirts. And from its clumsy attempts to locate mom’s mammary glands, it now knows exactly where to latch on, while Piquet has learned to slow her swimming speed to that of her drinking calf.
Right now the calf is nursing for about 30 seconds—in a series of 5- to 15-second bouts—every half hour, for a total of 24 minutes a day. That’s a lot. As the calf becomes more adept, however, its nursing time will go down while its intake remains the same or increases.
Milk will be the only source of nutrition for Piquet’s calf for several months, but this isn’t like the moo-juice you buy in the grocery store dairy case for your cereal. Dolphin milk has a fat content of 10 percent to 20 percent—along the lines of half-and-half, with the consistency of a smoothie. This high-fat milk provides the calf with the energy it needs to swim with mom, maintain its body temperature in chilly seawater and grow.
That last one is the big milestone that Ken and his crew are watching for in the next couple of days: to see those fetal folds on the calf’s body fill out as it gains weight. Expect the calf to get rounder and pudgier—Ken’s words—as it builds its insulating layer of blubber. In dolphin calves, baby fat is not only good, it’s also essential.
The little dolphin depends on mom to produce a steady stream of calorie-rich food. To do that, Piquet really has to eat for two. From a daily intake of 20 pounds of fish, she’s up to 30 pounds since the calf was born, and she could easily hit 40 pounds of food a day.
Nursing is the most important thing the calf has to do right now, and it’s also the most easily interrupted. That’s why Secluded Bay and the corresponding section of Polar Play Zone are temporarily closed to the public. But you can follow the calf’s development here and on our Facebook page and Twitter feeds.
Read our previous posts on Piquet and her calf.
Karen Furnweger, web editor