“I moved down here almost 4 and a half years ago and I started as an intern and I fell in love with this park,” Emma Landvatter, Marine Mammal Trainer at Coral World Ocean Park said.
Landvatter has dreamed of working with dolphins since she was a little girl.
She’s been working with sea lions since she started at Coral World, but when the aquarium said they would be getting four dolphins Landvatter jumped at the chance to work with them.
“I think that every little girl has that dream of working with dolphins. Some of us just never grow up. And so, getting this opportunity and getting to share my passion for marine life. For ocean conservation, for ocean mammals and for their counterparts out in the wild has really been, really just a dream come true. I don’t think that there is any other way to describe it.”
In February four dolphins arrived at the St. Thomas Ocean Park completing the dream of General Curator Lee Keller of teaching visitors about these creatures.
“We’re very happy that the dolphins are settling in and having a good time out there getting used to their new facility and that’s exciting,” Keller said.
April 15 was the official opening of the Dolphin Education Center and the Dolphin Sea Sanctuary where these dolphins now call home. But the title Coral World came up with isn’t sitting well with dolphin activists.
“As soon as Coral World obtained the four dolphins they rebranded themselves as sea sanctuary and we object strongly to the term sanctuary. It is a misnomer and it is misleading,” Fiona Stuart with the group Dolphin Voices said.
Stuart has been pushing back against the use of dolphins at Coral World for years.
But now that the site is open to the public Stuart and the group VI Dolphin Voices are finding new ways to oppose keeping dolphins in captivity.
“The only way forward is try to educate people and to try to stop people from getting tickets because if people weren’t buying tickets there wouldn’t be a need for this. The four dolphins at Coral World are all first generation born. Those four dolphins their mothers were all captured from the wild and if there weren’t dolphinariums like Coral World they wouldn’t have been taken from the wild. It’s sad.”
While the debate continues outside of Coral World inside visitors are able to see a dolphin presentation with the purchase of their aquarium ticket.
They’re also able to request a more personal one on one meeting with one of the dolphins.
More on the dolphins at Coral World Ocean Park at https://coralworldvi.com.
More on VI Dolphin Voices at https://www.facebook.com/ViDolphinVoices/.