photos courtesy of Sea Life Park
This may not sound like big news, but when the "girl" is Sea Life Park's hybrid wholphin, Kekaimalu, it's pretty exciting! Her birth on May 15, 1985 was a big surprise for the Sea Life Park staff. Her mother, a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), and her father, a false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens), met on the job in the Whaler's Cove show. Since they were two very different animals, it was not expected that they would produce an offspring, but they did, making Kekaimalu the world's only known living wholphin.
Top to bottom
Killer Whale (Dad- I`anui Hahai ), Bottlenose Dolphin (Mom- Punahele )
& Wolphin - Keikaimalu
The wholphin's first 10 years have not been idle. She spent her early years with her mother, Punahele, and various other dolphins. By the age of 4 she was trained and began performing the the Whaler's Cove show. Hybrid animals are usually sterile, so it was another big surprise when Kekaimalu got pregnant and gave birth to a female calf in 1991. The calf, Pohaikealoha, was fathered by one of the dolphins performing in the show. Being 3/4 dolphin and 1/4 whale, Pohaikealoha looks much like a bottlenose dolphin. Kekaimalu spent over two years with her calf, but the Sea Life Park training staff also gets lots of credit for raising Pohaikealoha. For 5 months they fed her 8 times a day since no nursing occurred between mother and calf. Pohaikealoha has now joined other young dolphins being trained, and Kekaimalu is back with some adult female dolphin companions.
The wholphin will soon return to show business after her lengthy maternity leave. The Sea Life Park staff has been busy preparing for the opening of a new show which will give visitors a chance to learn some of the fascinating ways marine mammals have adapted to life in the ocean. Visitors will see Kekaimalu perform along with 3 veteran dolphins who have been at Sea Life Park since before she was born.
John Oakley, a Sea Life Park trainer, has worked with Kekaimalu since her early training sessions. He is now training her behaviors for her new show, specifically a backward tail walk, forward flip, vocalizing on cue, and spitting water. He feels she definitely has matured and now has a much longer attention span. "She's one of the brightest animals I've ever worked with," said John of the love of his life (at least in the animal kingdom).
Join us in wishing Kekaimalu Hauoli la hanau on May 15th and come to see her with her dolphin friends in Sea Life Park's new Wholphin Bay Show. You'll see that here in Hawai'i, where a mixed heritage is the norm, Kekaimalu is right at home.