A passion for marine conservation and dolphins
I followed a career as a dolphin trainer because I am passionate about animals, especially dolphins, as they are intelligent, beautiful creatures that have taught me a lot about life. I am also very passionate about marine conservation and sharing my concern for the health of the oceans with as many people as I am able to.
My day starts by reading through the nightshift handover notes and a lingering good-morning stroll around the dolphin pools. Then it’s into the fish kitchen to prepare the dolphins' fish for the day, ensuring that I put aside one fish out of every box for the resident microbiologist to analyse.
Once the food for the day is prepared I then start setting up the medical and water-testing equipment. With the arrival of more of my colleagues and the veterinarian, we start doing medicals and medical training not only on the dolphins, but on the seals and penguins as well.
I then either assist with water testing or set about recording the morning's data. I spend a few hours each day interacting with the dolphins, to ensure that they are mentally stimulated and in perfect health.
In between all this I spend a fair amount of time cleaning buckets and the food preparation areas. We either do two or three shows per day, depending on the season's needs, which means either 40 or 60 minutes of my day is spent in front of an audience and the rest of my day is spent backstage, where the real work takes place.
Without any doubt the best part of my day is when I am interacting with one of the animals. The worst part of my day is perhaps the paperwork, which I know is vital but it’s only through a strong sense of self-discipline that I get it done.
A good dolphin trainer needs to have practical and theoretical knowledge, but must be willing to learn and be a team player. A gentle spirit with a passion for marine conservation and a really small ego is essential.
Luckily I am a good swimmer, physically fit and happy to put the needs of others before myself, as without these attributes I would not be able to make it through the first hour, let alone a whole day.
I feel privileged to work with the dolphins, who are inspirational ocean ambassadors. As a dolphin trainer I am able to encourage people of all ages, through the dolphins, to keep the oceans free from pollution, which is the greatest man-made threat to marine life along with unsustainable fishing practices.
South Africa is the third-most biodiverse country in the world and really needs its citizens to take up marine science or conservation, with the ultimate aim of sharing that knowledge and changing the world.
- Lungisani Mbhele holds a Bachelor of Science degree from UNISA, and has worked with dolphins for eight years
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