View Full Version : Dolphin With Scoliosis

12-09-2004, 01:27 PM

Dolphin at Minnesota Zoo expecting calf

By Erica Christoffer
Sun Newspapers
(Created 12/9/2004 11:21:42 AM)

Spree, the youngest dolphin at the Minnesota Zoo, will soon have a little brother or sister. Her mother, Rio, is expecting a calf next June.

A routine blood sample taken from Rio last July indicated increased levels of progesterone, leading zookeepers to suspect her pregnancy. An ultrasound confirmed that suspicion in September.

However, the father of the calf is yet to be determined. There are two potential sires, Semo, 40, and Chinook, 23.

“We won’t know that paternity until after the calf is born,” said Diane Fusco, dolphin zookeeper.

Zoo visitors will notice Rio’s gradual weight gain as she adds about 100 pounds to her current 450-pound frame. Zookeepers will routinely weigh Rio and increase her feedings.

Daily dolphin performances will be limited for Rio, who is usually the star of the show.

“Rio is a very acrobatic, aerial born animal. She loves doing some spectacular behaviors. But we’re starting to cut some of those behaviors out,” Fusco said. “And as she progresses throughout the pregnancy, she will voluntarily stop doing some of those behaviors.”

Eventually Rio will be separated from the male dolphins as she comes close to term, to ensure the safety of both her and the calf. Zookeepers are still discussing whether or to keep Rio with Spree and the third female dolphin Ayla.

“Ideally you want to give females opportunities to see births and rearing of young. It’s kind of a learning experience for them,” Fusco said.

Spree will one day mother her own calves, but Ayla is not in a reproductive situation due to her scoliosis. However, observation could be beneficial to both dolphins, Fusco said.

With the recent move of DJ and the acquiring of Chinook in the past six months, Fusco said the zoo plans to keep this population of dolphins for a while.

“When young dolphins get to be 3 to 6 years old, they’ll leave that maternal group,” Fusco said. “Dolphins are very social animals and although their society is very fluid, there still is social things they have to deal with.”

When animals move between zoos, there is a transition period and sometimes shifts in relationships.

Rio came to the Minnesota Zoo in 1980 from the New York Aquarium. This is the 32-year-old dolphin’s fourth pregnancy. Rio gave birth to Shadow in 1992, who now resides at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. DJ was her second calf, born in 1996, and was recently transferred to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. Spree was born in 2002 and still has a very close relationship to her mother.

Monthly ultrasounds will be taken throughout Rio’s pregnancy. The gestation period for dolphins is 12 months, after which a single calf is born usually tail-first.

“We just invite people to come on in and go through the pregnancy with Rio. She’d like to see everybody,” Fusco said.

12-09-2004, 03:00 PM
I guess koalas can commonly have problems with scoliosis, too. Didn't know about dolphins!

12-09-2004, 03:33 PM

We've been following the progress of this little dolphin here in Ireland.I must e mail and see if he made it through the summer.

12-09-2004, 03:42 PM
While we're on the subject, there is a giraffe at either the San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Wild Animal Park (can't remember which) with a severe curvature in it's neck. I took a picture of it years ago, but can't find it now.


12-09-2004, 04:41 PM
Oh! My aunt took a picture of that giraffe too! Might see if I can borrow it to scan!

Jenny Spencer
12-11-2004, 11:11 AM
I never realised that animals could get scoliosis but when you think of it any mamal could develop it.

Please keep us informed of the little dolphin's progress.

It would be interesting to see the photo of the giraffe if you can find it