Bottlenose dolphins among people. Interview with a dolphin trainer.

Published on 07/14/2014 at

The summer season is in full swing, in the resort towns there are a lot of vacationers, and rarely anyone does not look at the dolphinarium at least once. During a magnificent show with marine animals, the audience sees a beautiful parade picture, but what is behind it? Evgeny Abramov told us about this – head of the coaching department of the Gelendzhik Dolphinarium, technical diving instructor IANTD, PSA, CMAS.

Neptune: Evgeny, how long have you been working with dolphins? And how did it happen that the hobby became a profession?

This is quite a beautiful story. Dad, being an engineer in a design office and having a long vacation, has been diving since the late 50s and traveled all over our country with expeditions. When the children began to grow up, he began to choose such expeditions where he could take us with him. Thus, in 1974, my brother and I were on an expedition from the Institute of Oceanology of the Academy of Sciences to the Crimea to Tarkhankut. This expedition was engaged in the study of a wild herd of dolphins. And since then, it's gone. My brother immediately became a professional, he graduated from a diving school and served in the military dolphinarium of Sevastopol. And I went to the dolphinarium all the time, helped and was in the know. Graduated from his institute & nbsp; and only in 1990 he came to the dolphinarium for a permanent job, although the previous 15 years he was, as they say, "in the subject".

It's not a job, it's not a business, it's a lifestyle. Very responsible, because it is a responsibility both to the pets and to the employees who are in your subordination. And at the same time, a somewhat slovenly lifestyle – you don’t know where you will suddenly find yourself, something new, something interesting happens all the time.

I can't say that some special love for animals brought me here. Rather, it is a lifestyle associated with water, with the sea, with travel, with adventure, with an element of show when you go out in public. No matter how many thousand times you do it – it's always a drive.

Neptune: Please tell us about your dolphinarium. What structures, professions, people are involved in the process of life support and education of marine animals?

I am now working in the Gelendzhik Dolphinarium, at one time it was part of one large dolphinarium, the branches of which were all over the country. For more than 10 years we have already been an independent legal entity. There are many animals and people, some work in branches, some go on tour, sometimes they invite us to the circus to work with our animals. Previously, they were engaged in trapping animals. If we talk about the Black Sea bottlenose dolphin, then once we caught them for the whole country.

You can probably boast that the last captured animals – 1999 capture. All subsequent animals, of which we now have more than a dozen, were born to us. And we – the only dolphinarium on the territory of Russia, as far as I know, in which there are born animals in the second generation. That is, born from those born in captivity. We are proud of it. So certain heights in the safe and comfortable keeping of animals have been achieved.

People who come to the performance or to friends-acquaintances in the dolphinarium, as a rule, see only the tip of the iceberg. But in order for this organism to live, you need a lot of people, services, knowledge.

Now we have 4 coaches who show all the shows. But the audience sees only a small part of the team, which goes to the side of the pool – the trainers waved their arms, and the dolphins jumped or the walrus raised its flipper.

In fact, more than 70 people are involved in this show. This is a huge work of many people who are directly involved in animals, as well as the veterinary service, which conducts daily examinations, medical examinations, prescribes vitamins, and, if necessary, treats animals.

I would like to tell you more about the veterinary service. Initially, we tried to hire specialists not with a veterinary education, but with a medical – they are undeniably stronger in both diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, both doctors who work for us, – candidates of sciences. Head of Water Treatment Service – a person with a physical and technical education and several additional educations in chemistry, speaks three languages.

There is a 24-hour technical service that monitors water quality. They must be very qualified people. There is a laboratory service that takes water samples every hour and, on the basis of these samples, directs the actions of the technical service. As in any organization, there is an administrative and economic service, a management apparatus.

So there are a lot of highly skilled people working here who stay behind the scenes when people come to see the show with marine animals.

Neptune: Interesting to learn more about marine animal trainers – where  teach this rare profession?

The entire civilized world has been keeping marine animals in captivity for a long time. They have accumulated a lot of experience, created certain structures. Some professionals are engaged in catching animals, others are preparing animals, others – beautiful, fit, athletic & nbsp; boys and girls – perform with these animals, etc.

Until very recently, we had to do everything ourselves, because there were very few people involved in this business. In our environment, there was even such a saying: "There are fewer of us than astronauts." Although in fairness it should be noted that today there are a lot of trainers of marine animals in Russia.

Yes, maybe every "step" we performed weaker than our American or Japanese counterparts, but the volume of tasks to be solved was incommensurable.

Each of our coaches had to dive and repair the enclosures and do other work underwater. Then there was a requirement that every coach should be listed as a part-time diver, have a diving book, be able to manage a small fleet – since part of the work was related to the release of animals to the open sea, participation in captures, etc. Everyone had to be able to take blood from an animal, do tests, understand the results of tests, and have elementary veterinary skills. And, of course, be able to prepare the animal – create new numbers, new programs. And, as a result, also be able to demonstrate all this – beautifully raise the handle, gracefully jump into the water.

Therefore, there were not so many people in the profession at that time – the demands were too great.

On the other hand, at least for me, it was interesting – neither in the theater, nor in the cinema, nor in the circus do you ever do everything yourself from "A" to "I". Do you have a director, director, screenwriter… And here everything – from how I saw a fin in the sea through binoculars, and before a year or two later I began to perform with this animal, – you do everything with your own hands. You catch it yourself, you drive it yourself, you adapt it yourself, you train it yourself. No one tells you what to do and how. And what you end up getting, you yourself will show. There was some interest in this. Now it is a more structured process. It's probably more correct – You can't be a professional at everything. And now a more modern chain is being built.

We recruit people every year. There are not so many mandatory requirements – it is necessary that a person does not have problems with the army, with the law, with health and, of course, wants to work. We do not require any special education, as it is easier to teach than to retrain. We begin to slowly teach these young guys who come. First, they work as assistant coaches, then, after a while, if everything works out, they become coaches.

A person must go through the entire chain at least once in order to become a coach.

We call a trainer someone who can, with any animal (walrus, dog, earthworm or beluga whale), prepare given behavioral chains using certain techniques.

As a result, in the Gelendzhik dolphinarium today, for 23 animals, I have 17 people in the coaching department, of which two are leading, one  sound engineer… And only three – trainers.

People sometimes accidentally come to us. Someone used to work in a tire shop, someone – on the market. One day a boy came – start music (and he used to trade in the market). He turned on the music, after half a year he began to help the coach… And then he was entrusted with independent work with animals.

Pay, unfortunately, is not very high. Work without days off and irregular. Moreover, when all normal people have holidays or weekends – we have the best job. And the holiday – not a holiday, day or night, the animal must still eat, it must be well-groomed, certain procedures must be carried out with it. Therefore, they leave when someone starts a family and can no longer stand it, someone does not like the nomadic touring life, not everyone is ready for our rhythm. Because of this, unfortunately, there is some turnover at the first stage, but, as a rule, people who have worked for at least two years never leave.

Neptune: What other work do dolphinarium trainers do besides teaching animals?

People should be able to do everything related to keeping animals. For example, today there was another procedure between views – we took blood from animals for the hormone progesterone, according to the results of the analysis, we can determine the onset of pregnancy. And a week ago there was a medical examination, when it was necessary to raise, weigh, and measure all the animals.

Five days ago we went to Utresh to help our colleagues with beluga whales who needed to be biopsied. Animals are 1.5 tons each, and in order to simply hold them, you need to be able to do this, you need to know how to grab hold and the like. At the same time, a large amount of dirty work that remains behind the scenes, – you need to defrost the fish, cut it, give out vitamins, then wash everything, you need to meet the audience, see it off… It is necessary to closely monitor the purity of the water, changes in the behavior of the animal, changes in some external conditions: a new scratch appeared, someone began to dominate someone, someone began to crush someone & hellip; The first to track this, of course, is the coach. Track, promptly evaluate and report to the service that will help solve these problems.

Separate theme – transportation of animals. For example, I flew with dolphins on the bed-bells from Simferopol to Buenos Aires, 48 ​​hours from place to place. And a week later these animals performed and were alive and well. You need to know how to prepare the bath and the animal for transportation, what kind of stretcher should be, you need to be able to perform certain diving work… You can’t list everything.

Neptune: Please tell us how the replenishment of the dolphinarium is going on. Do your animals have offspring or do you bring dolphins from other places?

For many years, our animals did not have offspring. Either the animals did not coincide with each other in age, or in temperament. Gradually, we learned what is needed for this: what water conditions, and how to match animals to each other. And the animals themselves have somehow got used to each other.

And now, almost every year over the past 10 years, dolphins have been born with us, now we are waiting for replenishment in July. And if today's tests are confirmed, then we can say that 2 or 3 females are pregnant, which means that next summer we will again expect replenishment.

Na segodnyashniy den' v nashey strane yest' nes­kol'ko organizatsiy, imeyushchikh svoikh zhivotnykh, i takiye, u kotorykh yest' resurs (zemlya, den'gi) dlya postroyki del'finariya, no u nikh net svoikh zhivotnykh, a chasto oni i ne khotyat ikh imet'. Zachem im eti dopolnitel'nyye nagruzki – otdel'nyy shtat, kucha problem? Poetomu lyudi stroyat del'finariy i priglashayut takiye organizatsii, kak nasha, rabotat' na kontraktnykh usloviyakh.

Inogda u nas byvayet 3–4 odnovremenno rabotayushchikh kontrakta. Seychas u nas kontrakt s del'finariyem «Lazarevskiy» Sochinskogo rayona – eto bol'shoy, chistyy, komfortnyy del'finariy, chast' zhivotnykh seychas tam. Eto vsegda neprosto, potomu chto lyubaya transportirovka zhivotnykh – protsess, k kotoromu nado gotovit'sya. I vsegda ochen' interesnyy protsess – zapusk programmy na novom meste. Zhivotnoye priyekhalo na novoye mesto – ono polnost'yu dezoriyentirovano. U nego pomenyalis' trayektorii razgonov, mogla pomenyat'sya gruppa (kogo-to vzyali iz odnoy pary zhivotnykh, kogo-to iz drugoy), pomenyalsya krug obshcheniya. U nas, naprimer, vystupayut odnovremenno belukhi i del'finy. A rodilis' eti del'finy i zhili v basseyne, gde ne bylo belukh. I vot oni priyekhali v del'finariy, gde belyye zhivotnyye, kotorykh oni voobshche nikogda ne videli.

Vsegda interesno na novom mes­te stroit' otnosheniya s lyud'mi, adaptirovat' zhivotnykh, primenyat' kakiye-to marketingovyye khody, chtoby potom vse zarabotalo. Etim ya vsegda zanimayus' s udovol'stviyem.

Neptun: Kak schitayesh', chto-to nuzhno dobavit' ili izmenit' v protsesse soderzhaniya i obucheniya zhivotnykh v del'finarii?

Printsipial'naya pozitsiya nashego del'finariya takaya. My iz"yali etikh zhivotnykh iz prirody. Dazhe yesli oni u nas rodilis', vse ravno eto – dikiye zhivotnyye. Im v prirode svoystvenny opredelennyye veshchi. Yesli my etikh zhivotnykh soderzhim v nevol'nykh ili poluvol'nykh usloviyakh, my dolzhny vse eti grani vospolnit'. V ne ochen' sovremennykh zooparkakh vospolnyayut pitaniye i kakiye-to seksual'nyye potrebnosti. No yest' yeshche mnogo-mnogo veshchey. Usloviya sredy obitaniya – voda, vozdukh, osveshchennost', mnozhestvo drugikh pozitsiy, kotoryye slozhny, dorogostoyashchi, no bez nikh u zhivotnykh ne budet zdorov'ya i normal'nogo soderzhaniya. My dolzhny vospolnit' fizicheskiye nagruzki, kotorykh lisheny eti zhivotnyye. Chernomorskaya afalina v den' mozhet proplyvat' poryadka 200 km.

Ponyatno, chto v basseyne zhivotnoye ne mozhet proplyt' takoye rasstoyaniye. Znachit, my dolzhny vospolnyat' eto iskusstvenno. My dolzhny vospolnyat' i intellektual'nuyu sostavlyayushchuyu, kak ni smeshno eto zvuchit. V more del'finu vse vremya prikhoditsya reshat' kakiye-to zadachi: kuda poyti za ryboy, kak zagnat' rybu, kak poymat', dognat' i t.d. I my dolzhny etu sostavlyayushchuyu vospolnyat' – igrovym povedeniyem, davaya zadachki, ucha zhivotnoye uchit'sya. My ne prosto uchim zhivotnoye prinosit' myach. My posledovatel'no uchim zhivotnoye uchit'sya. I kazhdyy sleduyushchiy element, kotoryy my khotim otrabotat', dayetsya legche, potomu chto zhivotnoye uzhe naucheno, u nego yest' predstavleniye o nekotorykh pravilakh igry.

Kogda verstalsya nomer, v redaktsiyu prishlo soobshcheniye, chto 3-go iyulya v Gelendzhikskom del'finarii rodilsya del'finenok. Novorozhdennyy vesit 12 kg, a rost yego – 1 m. Pozdravlyayem!

Avtor: Irina Kochergina. Foto avtora

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Today, in our country there are several organizations that have their own animals, and those that have a resource (land, money) to build a dolphinarium, but they do not have their own animals, and often they do not want to have them . Why do they need these additional loads – a separate state, a bunch of problems? Therefore, people are building a dolphinarium and inviting organizations like ours to work on contract terms.

Sometimes we have 3–4 contracts running at the same time. Now we have a contract with the dolphinarium "Lazarevsky" Sochi region – it is a large, clean, comfortable dolphinarium, some of the animals are there now. It is always difficult, because any transportation of animals – process to be prepared for. And always a very interesting process – launching the program in a new location. The animal arrived at a new place – it is completely disoriented. His acceleration trajectories changed, the group could change (someone was taken from one pair of animals, someone from another), the social circle changed. For example, white whales and dolphins perform at the same time. And these dolphins were born and lived in a pool where there were no belugas. And so they arrived at the dolphinarium, where there are white animals that they have never seen at all.

It's always interesting in a new place to build relationships with people, adapt animals, apply some kind of marketing moves so that everything will work later. This is what I always do with pleasure.

Neptune: What do you think should be added or changed in the process of keeping and training animals in the dolphinarium?

The fundamental position of our dolphinarium is this. We removed these animals from nature. Even if they were born with us, it's still – wild animals. They have certain things in nature. If we keep these animals in captive or semi-free conditions, we must fill all these facets. In not very modern zoos, food and some sexual needs are replenished. But there are many, many more things. Habitat conditions – water, air, lighting, and many other items that are complex, expensive, but without them, animals will not have health and normal maintenance. We must make up for the physical activity that these animals are deprived of. The Black Sea bottlenose dolphin can swim about 200 km a day.

It is clear that in the pool the animal cannot swim such a distance. So we have to make up for it artificially. We must make up for the intellectual component, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. In the sea, a dolphin always has to solve some problems: where to go for fish, how to drive the fish, how to catch, catch up, etc. And we must fill this component – play behavior, giving tasks, teaching the animal to learn. We don't just teach the animal to fetch the ball. We consistently teach the animal to learn. And each next element that we want to work out is easier, because the animal has already been taught, it has an idea about some of the rules of the game.

When the issue was being made up, the editors received a message that on July 3rd a baby dolphin was born in the Gelendzhik Dolphinarium. The newborn weighs 12 kg, and his height – 1 m. Congratulations!

Author: Irina Kochergina. Photo by the author