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Friday, April 12, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsCoral World Announces Birth of Dolphin Calf Coki

Coral World Announces Birth of Dolphin Calf Coki

Noelani and her calf, Coki, swim together at Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy Coral World Ocean Park)
Noelani and her calf, Coki, swim together at Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy Coral World Ocean Park)

Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas has a new addition — a female calf named Coki that was born in October to one of the park’s original dolphins, Noelani.

“Coki, as she is affectionately and appropriately named, has been growing rapidly. She has demonstrated a highly active interest in her surroundings and a strong sense of independence,” said Assistant Curator of Marine Mammals and Birds, Kristine Tartaglio, in a press release Wednesday announcing the birth.

Since her arrival at the park located at Coki Point, hence her name, the Coral World staff has monitored the calf’s growth and development, said Tartaglio.

Coki’s October arrival came just months after the sudden death of a 3-week-old male calf born to resident dolphin Ping at the end of July, which left staff devastated as mother and baby had appeared to be doing well. Ping was the first marine mammal at Coral World to become pregnant, and her calf was the first dolphin to be born under the park’s care.

Coki’s mother, Noelani, was one of the original dolphins that came to Coral World from Arizona when a facility there closed. “Despite being blind, Noelani is doing an exceptional job of nurturing her calf and preparing her for independence,” said Tartaglio. “Although Coki will not be included in any public encounters or activities just yet, she enjoys interacting with her trainers.”

Dolphins live in complex social groups. Within pods, female dolphins assume various roles when a baby is born. “A particularly important role is that of an Auntie, another female who helps care for and protect the baby,” said General Curator Lee Kellar. “Nola, one of our female dolphins, is enjoying the role of Auntie. She is helping Coki with her integration into the social group here at Coral World as well as providing Noelani with some relief.”

Noelani will nurse her baby for anywhere from 18 to 24 months, perhaps longer, and the pair will remain together for some time after that. “In the wild, dolphins will stay with their mothers for an average of three to six years. However, after they no longer rely on nursing for their primary source of nutrition, they are frequently observed separating from mom to learn to forage and socialize with other dolphins as well,” Tartaglio has said previously.

Coki joins the six adult dolphins currently residing in Coral World’s Dolphin Sanctuary, which opened in April 2019 and covers 1.6 acres, so she will have lots of room to explore, the press release stated.

The Coastal Zone Management Committee approved Coral World for a maximum of 15 dolphins at a hearing in 2019, 12 of which can be part of the park’s interactive program while an additional three would be allowed if the dolphins reproduce.

Park officials said at the time that breeding was not a part of the plan but also could not be completely ruled out. “There is no perfect way we can keep the animals from breeding, short of separating them, which is not a humane thing to do,” Kellar said then.

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