The one-week milestone!
Piquet’s calf sailed past another milestone as he or she (we still haven’t gotten a close enough look) passed the one-week mark. The gender mystery is actually part of the positive outlook—the animal care and animal health teams haven’t needed to help—and therefore examine—the calf because it is doing so well under mom’s care.
No one is more pleased than Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training. He says, “Almost every single day, the calf has hit key milestones on schedule.”
By the weekend, the calf’s total daily nursing time dropped from 24 minutes to less than 10 minutes, “which is a really good thing,” Ken says. “The decrease means that the calf has learned how to get more milk faster.” The proof is in the visible weight gain Ken’s team observed by Monday—marking a very big milestone for the calf.
During the weekend, the around-the-clock monitors also noted that the calf is becoming more independent. In the beginning, it spent almost 100 percent of its time with mom. That association time has decreased to 75 percent as it exercises its freedom as well as its developing muscles.
This is also a milestone for Piquet, who kept the calf glued to her side the first few days, using everything from subtle touches with a pectoral fin to sudden sprints to head off any exploratory forays.
Of course, her initial concern was that the uncoordinated newborn would bump into something in its new world. But Piquet is relaxing a little now and allowing the calf to wander for a minute or more at a time. These breaks give the little dolphin a chance to improve its swimming, diving and buoyancy skills as well as offer mom a brief rest. They also let mom interact with the trainers again. For the first five or six days, the trainers simply tossed fish in Piquet’s path so that she could eat while keeping the calf close. But Piquet is participating in training sessions again—and taking double her pre-calf amounts of food, about 40 pounds of fish a day, enabling her to churn out a constant supply of high-fat milk for the calf.
Ken still cautions that the calf is at the most vulnerable stage of its life. “The first year of a dolphin calf’s life is filled with risks, and many milestones to reach, and no time is more perilous than the first four weeks.”
But so far, this calf has hit all its milestones and is going strong. “It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week since it was born,” Ken marvels. “The calf is continuing to make remarkable progress.”
Read our previous posts on Piquet and her calf.
Karen Furnweger, web editor