This photograph. Taken on the 1st of January 2000. At 6am in the morning. New Year’s eve time with dolphins is something that animal care staff do. No better way to see in the New Year. And how beautiful is this angel Kelpie. 33 years old today.
Such a gentleman. When I started working at with him, Kelpie was 6 years old. And already a charmer of note. If you ask him to retrieve a toy, even today, he will be extra obliging – helping you get it out of the water. He is a confidence builder. In people and in animals. He has taught so many animal trainers that they are good enough. He is the stable soul that we will introduce new young animals to, and he takes them patiently under his flipper, and shows them the ropes. Special memories. Like when he was practising behaviours he was trained with Khwezi – the newest addition to the bachelor group – Khwezi did not know the behaviours yet, but Kelpie was teaching him them. When he mimiced the alarm, so that he could get the trainers to rush to say hello at a whim. How he will happily play with trainers for hours. If you are there, so is he. How creative he is. Him and Freya coming up with a dual behaviour at the same time to a cue they had never see before. That special bond with Freya. His wicked sense of humour. How he will sit and stare at you when you ask him for a behaviour, and you know that he knows what you want him to do. And just when you are about to give up asking, he playfully offers the behaviour. How he measures up people. Slowly, deliberately. Watching, and checking to see if he can play the game. His gentle being. Standing in the water, just cuddling him. And his super enthusiasm after that water encounter. When he jumps higher than ever.
There were those before I started working that told me tales of Kelpie. He was the first calf ever born at Sea World. Observations of the miracle were exciting, and covered by scientists. Many lessons learned, and written up scientifically. His playful nature. Eager enthusiasm. They were apparently prevalent from the start.
And he has taught us all so much about animal training. What is possible through trust and faith. That a nearly 400 kilogram animal can be a gentle giant.
Kelpie angel. So grateful that I know you. And I know I speak for so many. You are a gem. It is so easy to love you. And we do! Happy Birthday Superstar