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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Odessa Happy with New Addition

ReutersA woman taking a picture of a baby dolphin with its mother in Odessa.
ODESSA, Ukraine -- The latest arrival at the dolphinarium in Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odessa, a calf born just over a week ago, seems destined to become a performing star alongside his mother and father.

So says his trainer, thrilled at the relatively rare dolphin birth in captivity.

"This is an extraordinary event, quite rare. We all aim for this and dream it may happen. It is the very peak of our work," said Yelena Komogorova, 29, emerging from the pool after a performance with her team of five dolphins.

"It means they are happy and that everything suits them -- starting with the water, their living conditions, the quantity and quality of food, and the love and attention of our staff," she added.

"And, of course, the attention they get from spectators creates an atmosphere in which they can not only live and play, but also reproduce and give us the gift of a lovely baby."

The calf, to be named in a public contest, remained close by as Komogorova put his mother and father, Lilia and Gavryusha, and two other charges through their paces in a 40-minute show.

The dolphins take her for rides and deposit her gently back on the pool's edge, as well as performing the more routine tricks of leaping through hoops and bouncing balls off their noses and tails. Two sea lions also do their bit, catching hoops or dancing and clapping to pop music.

It has been 10 years since the last dolphin birth in Ukraine. It was unclear that Lilia was pregnant until less than two months from the end of a yearlong gestation.

"We exempted her from difficult jumps to keep her as safe as possible so she would not land heavily on her belly in the water," Komogorova said.

Trainers assume that Gavryusha's attention to the calf after the hour-long birth indicated he was the father, but they said the polygamous nature of dolphins makes it hard to be sure.

"Sometimes he left his portion of fish for Lilia," Komogorova said.

The Soviet Union had a long history of dolphin research, not least because of their use by the military to detect or plant mines, a practice Komogorova says has thankfully been abandoned.

A second dolphinarium at Sevastopol further south in Crimea specializes in dolphin therapy for handicapped children.

The new calf, nicknamed "Odyssey" by staff in honor of his city of birth, will almost certainly be a performer. And he appears to be learning fast.

"He's already a little actor," Komogorova said. "Within a few hours, he was trying to push a ball with his nose and slap the water with his tail, like his uncle, aunt and dad."