Interrupting your Saturday: The Greatest Dolphin in the Whole Wide World

I'll keep this short, but I just found the cutest picture of my favorite dolphin, and I had to share it with you guys.

Photo Courtesy of Alex Mancini
This is Astro, a rough-toothed dolphin I had the honor of getting to know while I worked as the Director of Education at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach, FL from 2006-2007. He was rescued off the coast of Texas after he stranded in 2005, and he was deemed unreleasable after he was diagnosed with scoliosis of the spine. (Who knew dolphins could get it, too?)

He has some pretty sweet digs at Gulf World these days. He's a fully-functioning member of the park's seven member rough-toothed dolphin pod, AND he has his own personal chiropractor. He's a lovable staff favorite, I visit him every time I go back to Panama City Beach, and he still seems to remember me, all these years later.

This pic was recently posted on Facebook by a guest who visited the park, and Astro can be seen clowning around with his very own traffic cone--one of the many objects given to the animals on a rotational basis to enhance environmental enrichment and stimulate critical thinking.

Wanna know more about rough-toothed dolphins--my absolute favorite animals?? Check out this great background article from MarineBio.org: Steno bredanensis, Rough-Toothed Dolphin.  Environmental enrichment information is also available in this break-through publication by Robert J. Young, Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals.

Feel like totally nerdin' out? I can talk about this stuff for hours!