Gone All Marine

The ocean and its marine life have always been a fascinating mystery, hidden from us with layers of rippling blue waves.

With this Marine Life Park Blog, dive with us into the aquatic world as we take a peek at these fascinating marine creatures that would call our oceanarium their home. We will bring you updates, news and inside stories of what’s going on at the Marine Life Park. More importantly, the blog is here to listen to you; feel free to share your thoughts, offer suggestions and give feedback.

We’re also serious about our dedication to research, public education and conservation efforts for marine life, and have taken the first step towards it. Resorts World has partnered Sea Research Foundation’s Mystic Aquarium to develop and implement a comprehensive marine environment protection curriculum for the Marine Life Park (MLP) and aquarium. Marine Life enthusiasts can read more about the partnership here – http://www.rwsentosa.com/language/en-US/PressRoom

For now, the Marine Life Park may still be in development, but we did promise you inside stories. As some might know, our dolphins are already with us, at Subic Bay. We recently went up to the facility to acquaint with the playful creatures, and found ourselves falling rapidly in love with them. We will bring you a series of posts on our adventures in Subic Bay and what happens at the facility there, and we look forward to your views. Well, here’s the first, by yours truly –

A Road Trip to Subic Bay 

It’s not every day you get to do this. To depart from the repetitiveness of rapid-fire typing on the keyboard in an enclosed concrete box to the great outdoors, with the gleaming ocean as my office and dolphins as my companions.

Morning view from one of our lagoons. Gleaming oceans, didn’t I tell ya?

I’m Matt, not a marine life expert, but over the course of my one-week stay at Subic Bay, I hope to bring you an insider’s look at our dolphin facilities here. My day job is handling photography and social media at RWS, but now… now I play the part of a reporter. So join me as I take you along on my journey, unraveling info not just about dolphins, but also extracting some interesting stories about dolphin trainers.

Dolphin Trainers John & Andrew bring me on a visit to one of the most essential activities of the day.

It’s day one at Subic Bay. The hour hand had barely hit 6 when we hit the road, headed for our first activity of the day – Fish Prep. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be an eye-opener, which is exactly what it turned out to be.

Fish Prep is a crucial activity at the facility and probably the most scrutinized portion of the trainer’s daily routine. In fact, the trainers told me Fish Prepping serves as rites of passage for new trainers. It’s like THE initiation program- If you want to be a trainer, first things first, get the food right. Then you can be entrusted with more responsibilities.

Accompanying me on my Fish Prep journey were John and Andrew – a friendly duo with diverse career backgrounds in marine life. John’s an Australian, a veteran with nearly 10 years of experience training dolphins, sea lions and the like, while Andrew’s the new kid on the block from Canada who too, has been around parks worldwide.

(L-R): Capelin, Herring & Squid

At the facility, there were three main food items to be prepared: Capelin, Herring and Squid. Bottlenose dolphins aren’t fussy eaters, i was told. According to the trainers, they are generalists that eat up to 50 different species of marine animals.

I was stopped from entering the fish room. ‘Those ain’t coming in’, John narrowed his brows and eyed my footwear warily. “The place needs to be sterile”, he explained. Honouring the germ-free mandate, I removed my footwear instantly. Nothing’s coming between me and finding everything about dolphins.

Here’s a look at the preparation process:

Temperature was key to everything that goes on in this room, I realized. The trainers shared that all fish will be stored in a freezer at -20 degrees Celsius once they were delivered from renowned fisheries in North America and Canada. The night before food prep, they would be brought out to be defrosted in a refrigerator set at 2-5 degrees Celsius. Defrosted in a refrigerator? I was confused. Sensing the bewildered look on my face, John explained that the gradual defrosting process preserves much of the nutrition level and freshness of the fish.

I was then introduced to the first station, which I like to refer to as the “ice breakers”. Here the defrosted fish, which are still in hard icy blocks, need to be broken up by the trainers to extract the fish. Andrew proudly informs me this is no mere task, but an art form.

Here’s Andrew trying a hand at it. Wasn’t convincing enough for Stewart, the training consultant, aka the legendary ice-breaking guru. (I hear he’s been doing this for nearly 25 years) So, the master himself steps up to show how it’s done. Move over young one!

Stewart took a different approach, he pivoted the block against the tray and with a good grip on the back of the block, executed a combination of pressing, twisting and pulling…

…and it’s done. Looks easy but that’s years of experience condensed in a few seconds of handiwork for you. Not forgetting the need for the fingers to become immune to the biting chill of the ice blocks! Stewart shared with me after his flawless demo that as much as possible they would avoid the use of water in the defrosting process, for the same reason that they did not want any excessive loss of nutrients.

Next up, is the elimination process. Any slightest sign of blemish – a small tear on the tail, a torn belly, or if the fish is soft and basically any stray parts dangling from its body – and the fish would be rejected as these are telling signs that the freshness of the fish might have been compromised.

After the shortlist, the fish are weighed according to the calculated intake recommended for each dolphin. –A bottlenose dolphin’s diet usually constitutes 4-6% of their body weight which ranges from 80-113 kilos for ours here at Subic.

That was it. One last round of checks, ice added to maintain the freshness, buckets loaded into our ride for the day and we were all set for the first feeding session for the morning.

Next up on the list is feeding time of course, which I would blog about in the next post. Stay tuned!

Facebook Comments