BY MARK CUMMINGS
Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau
ROSE HALL, St James - FOR 27-year-old Chickie and her female calf, Secret, 2, the journey by air which took 23 hours from Zurich, Switzerland-with brief stops in Iceland and Canada- to their new home on the island's north coast, might have been very exhaustive.
But the two Bottlenose dolphins have since resettled nicely at the lagoon at the Half Moon Hotel in St James, and will very soon begin to entertain guests- just as they did at the Connyland Amusement Park in Lipperswil, Switzerland, up to days before their arrival in the resort city of Montego Bay.
"The dolphins are adapting to their home better than expected. They are not shy, they are not afraid, they will go out and socialise with the other dolphins... they are really doing very well," said Eric Bogden, the corporate director for marine animals at Dolphin Cove Ltd.
Chickie and Secret joined the two other dolphins, Pepe and Nina, at the Dolphin Cove attraction at Half Moon Hotel in Rose Hall on November 9.
Bogden, a former marine animal trainer at Sea World, in San Diego, California, told the Observer West that Dolphin Cove acquired the mammals after the owners of Connyland took the decision to close the dolphin attraction at that amusement park.
He stressed however, that the owners of the facility wanted to ensure that the dolphins "would be properly cared for" before they would release them.
"And so I believe the owners chose Dolphin Cove because of our reputation for animal care and because of the size of our facility. Our facilities are large natural lagoons and they are perfect for dolphins," he explained.
According to Bogden, the owners flew around the world looking at different locations to house the dolphins before giving Dolphin Cove the nod of approval.
"They even came here (Half Moon lagoon) in July with the head of Sea World to see what we have," he noted.
Dolphin Cove Ltd's acquisition of Chickie and Secret sparked widespread media interest in Switzerland, resulting in a number of media houses there making contact with the Jamaican media and the owners of the facility, in a bid to ascertain how the aquatic acrobats were doing.
He said during the long journey from Switzerland the dolphins were accompanied by vets and they were two "technical stops' along the journey, adding that Sea World provided the gear for the trip.
"Dolphin Cove is really very happy to have these new arrivals as it will strengthen our breeding programme," stressed Bogden.
Bogden did not disclose the amount paid for Chickie and Secret, but according to Observer West sources, a well-trained dolphin costs roughly $US500,000.
Meanwhile, head trainer at Dolphin Cove Daniel Suarez has expressed delight at how the dolphins are adapting to their new home.
"It's a pleasure working with them. They are well- trained and are adopting very quickly. They are very easy to work with, they are smart and are always willing to learn new things," said Suarez.
Apart from Half Moon, Dolphin Cove operates three other facilities -- Ocho Rios in St Ann; Lucea in Hanover, and the other in the Cayman Islands. Another is set to open in the Turks and Caicos Islands next October.