Up close and personal

Up close and personal


Natalie won our Easter photo competition; part of her prize was to shadow an SCMP Photographer.
Natalie won our Easter photo competition; part of her prize was to shadow an SCMP Photographer.
Photos: Natalie Ong
Dolphins are some of the most intelligent - and popular - creatures in the world, and last month, some lucky Young Post readers got to hang out with the clever critters. The six youngsters started off with a lesson on dolphins and their conservation, then they were off to the water to meet the adorable sea mammals. Here they share their wonderful experiences with the dolphins.

Ayra Marie Perakath, 12

The Dolphin Encounter was a truly top drawer experience.

It started with a 30-minute learning session, where we learned that dolphins have hair when they are born. It helps the newborn dolphins find their mother's mammary glands so they can drink milk.

Then we got to interact with and feed the dolphins. I held the fish with its head pointing towards the dolphin -they can't swallow fish if they are fed to them tail-first.

We also got a chance to play with the dolphins. I was amused to see the dolphins singing along as we moved our hands like a conductor with his orchestra.

Finally, I got to take a picture with a dolphin. The dolphin that I held was four times my weight, at 130kg, and 12 years old (approximately 24 in human years). As we waved goodbye to the dolphins, we saw them move their flippers up and down in response! They made our day - I certainly hope we made theirs!

Stephanie Siu Wing-laam, 17

I used to visit Ocean Park quite often because of the thrilling rides, but I never thought much about the animals. This time, I got a chance to touch the dolphins as well as learn about their body structure, behaviour and means of communication. This got me thinking about their current conservation status and gave me a strong desire to protect wildlife. I really enjoyed this summer workshop - it has added spice to my summer vacations.

Louise Hodgson, 14

Hicky and Pinky were clearly happy to see their trainer, and swam over to be introduced. Hicky, the older dolphin, is 20 years old, (about 40 in human years). Dolphins are among the smartest mammals. Wave two fingers as if conducting an orchestra, and they sing a high-pitched tune. The Ocean Park pair were extremely keen to please, and kept 'singing' until the trainer blew a whistle.

We then fed them. I was nervous as I gripped the slimy squid, but when Hicky gulped it down and gave a pleased squeak, I knew these gentle creatures would not harm me.

The shocking thing is that people are harming these beautiful dolphins. Dolphins are slowly decreasing in numbers. As we hugged the two dolphins and wave goodbye, I swore I would do my best to keep this species thriving. A first step is to recycle - this would mean less rubbish in the ocean!

It just took half an hour to form an amazing connection with the two dolphins, and one minute to decide they are now my favourite animals. How long would I remember experience? Forever.

Cheryl Yip, 15

The six lucky Young Post readers changed into special jumpsuits and set off to spend two hours as rookie dolphin trainers. The first interesting thing I learned is that you do not necessarily need to offer fish to give a dolphin incentive to perform; simply patting it on its head or praising it vocally will do.

Iwas so impressed by how protective the instructors are of their dolphins. We were reminded to remove any accessories, then we had to wash ourselves with liquid antiseptic, all to ensure a safe environment for dolphins. Speaking of dolphins’ habitats, the soaring death toll of the species can be attributed to human activities that have been seriously damaging their homes. Other than maintaining an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, we must be responsible visitors that respect and protect dolphins.

Azaara Anna Perakath, 15

It would be almost impossible to recount all I learned and gained from the Dolphin Encounter. It challenged my perceptions and opened my eyes to the wonders of the ocean.

First we were given an educational talk about dolphins. I learned how to distinguish a male dolphin from a female.

We then prepared to interact with the dolphins. After disinfecting several times, we stepped into the pool, clad in our wetsuits, to meet Pinky and Hicky. I fed Hicky a glassy-eyed fish. Dolphins don't chew their food, but swallow it whole. Our guide Anson told us that dolphins have strong digestive systems.

They also have large brains which accounts for their intelligence and ability to respond to human gestures. I learned that though dolphins open their mouths to 'sing', the sound comes out of their blowholes, not via vocal chords.

The idea of dolphins being endangered due to factors such as marine debris, overfishing, irresponsible eco-tourism and accidental by-catching has moved me to help to protect them.

Janet Tam Ka-wing, 16

I have always loved dolphins and this was a dream come true for me. Although there was a threat of rain, I still enjoyed it.

First, we went to a classroom and listened to a talk about the behaviour of dolphins and some safety rules.

The most unforgettable experience was hugging a dolphin. At the beginning, I was afraid that the dolphin would just slip away; fortunately, the dolphin trusted me and was willing to play with me. At the end of the workshop, I got to take a photograph with the dolphins, too.

This has been an unforgettable experience - after the dolphin encounter, I learned to appreciate dolphins even more.



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