Winter. Hope. And Other Animal Encounters.

We have Winter here in Clearwater, Florida. She is a rescued Bottlenose dolphin, whose tail had to be amputated. But thanks to some inventive and compassionate people, she now has a new prosthetic tail – and a permanent home.

winter UD148_edited-1She is the star of two wonderful films, The Dolphin Tale and the Dolphin Tale 2. But even more importantly, she is the star in the hearts of countless kids who have met her and her friend Hope at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Hope and Winter UD148Despite its name this is not a traditional aquarium, but a marine hospital and rehabilitation center where injured animals are brought from near and far for urgent care and rehabilitation.

staff feeds a sea turtle UD148The two dolphins, and a third one called Nicholas, live here getting all the care and therapies they need on a daily basis. They have certainly made a lasting impression on my ‘grandies’.

going to feed Hope UD148_edited-1This past holiday season Santa brought them an opportunity to have a close encounter with Hope. They could feed her, touch her and get a photo taken with her. Absolute joy.

Hope with a trainer UD148_edited-1One of the last days of 2017 we also visited the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, where we found this baby chimpanzee pondering the complexities of life…

Baby chimpanzee UD148…while his friend, a colobus monkey, demonstrated his gymnastic skills. And his fancy haircut.

colobus monkey UD148We saw many birds, including a Scarlet Ibis and a beautiful mystery bird I have not been able to identify as yet. Anyone?

scarlet ibis UD148

mystery bird at Lowry park zoo UD148_edited-1And we watched the meerkats watching us. The one on guard duty, in particular, nailed his eyes on us. But we were on our best behavior and he didn’t need to sound alarm.meerkat UD148_edited-1In the “Africa” section we spotted elephants, zebras…and a giraffe couple having a tender moment.

elephant UD148

young zebra UD148

giraffe love UD148I’d rather observe all these animals in their natural environment like I used to, but have to admit well run zoos offer the kids an invaluable opportunity to experience them.

my family at the zoo UD148And some zoos, including this one, also help to breed endangered species. Four southern white rhino babies have already been born here.

southern white rhino ud148There was so much more to see, like this sweet little wallaby basking in the late December sun.

wallaby UD148But when you are dealing with a granny and two kids, there’s a limit how much you can take in during one visit. So late in the afternoon we had to say goodbye. Thank you for coming along!

parakeet ud148

65 thoughts on “Winter. Hope. And Other Animal Encounters.”

  1. Thanks for the tour Helen. I’m glad you’re taking your animal commentary on the road. It seems zoos could become places to educate, breed, and reintroduce species. I love your creative commentary. πŸ™‚

    1. Good point, Brad! I agree that zoos can play an even bigger role than they currently do in research and protecting endangered species. For example, there are only three Northern White Rhinos (1 male and 2 females) remaining in the world – in a conservancy. It may be too late to save that subspecies, but there are still over 20K Southern White Rhinos…still time to help them avoid extinction.

    1. That place is truly amazing…kids just love to visit. Our 3-year old can sit still for the longest time and just watch the dolphins, sea turtles, otters and others πŸ™‚

  2. I know & love the story of Winter and have a 15″ metal sculpture of her. πŸ™‚ And it is always a pleasure to adventure through a zoo, I enjoyed yours and your photos. I buy yearly passes for the grandboys in Baltimore every Christmas, and they go quite often because they live so close. The six year old has learned so much about animals already. Zoos are wonderful for them to see and learn…..and us adults who’ll never get to go on a wild safari. πŸ™‚

    1. Winter’s story is so inspiring! Our two girls have now seen her twice and talk about her and Hope all the time. Feeding Hope was pure bliss πŸ™‚ Great that your grand boys enjoy learning about animals as do my grand girls. When I think of Baltimore, I remember the great National Aquarium. It was one of our favorite weekend destinations when we lived in Bethesda, MD and our son was small.

    1. I fell in love with the baby chimp – such an expressive face πŸ™‚ Thanks to a blogging friend we now know that the mystery bird is a Sunbittern from South America’s jungles.

    1. Thanks Carrie. I had so much fun with my two grand girls when they came to visit me to celebrate “second Christmas” after my return from Sweden.

    1. The true story about Winter’s tail is very inspiring. Kids love her. She has shown that you can thrive even when you have a disability. Thanks for coming along, Cindy.

  3. Like you, I have mixed feelings about zoos ~ as long as the animals aren’t pacing back and forth in a too small for them cage, they do present learning opportunities for kids, research opportunities for adults, and can be used to replenish species on the verge of extinction.

    1. I agree, Nancy. Our grand girls go often to the zoo where they live in North FL…they love these animals and have learned a lot already. Feeding the dolphin and the stingrays at the marine hospital was a highlight for them.

  4. This is what you needed Tiny…being with the family, enjoying the animal, taking wonderful photos. I’m glad to see a happy post. The bird that you are inquiring, I believe is a Tiger Night Heron. Take care my friend… πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for your kind comment, my friend. I thought, too, that the bird was some kind of night heron, because the eyes look very much like that, but another blogging friend suggested that it could be a Sunbittern found in South America’s marshes and jungles. I checked pictures and that confirmed it. The white spots on the wings and the stripes on the head are unmistakable πŸ™‚

    1. Happy you enjoyed these little outings. Michelle (below) suggested it could be a Sunbittern from South America. I had never heard of this bird, but when I checked the pictures it was confirmed. She has unmistakable markings!

    1. Thank you, Karen! I had a few wonderful days with the kiddos after my return from Sweden. We celebrated “second Christmas” and went on some great outings. Rejuvenating πŸ™‚

  5. What a wonderful gift Tiny for your grandies and daughter to be with the dolphins and actually touch them. These restorative conservation sanctuaries are so needed. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos.

    1. Happy you came along on our small outings, Ashley! Just in case you are interested…the mystery bird is a Sunbittern from Central- and South American marshes and jungles πŸ™‚

  6. What a special treat for you and your family. I wasn’t aware of the stories of Winter & Hope and will definitely look into the films. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming post ❀

    1. Thank you for being here, dear Takami ❀ Please check out the two films inspired by Winter's story – they are heart-warming and filmed right here! In 2014 when Dolphin Tale 2 was made, I remember that the road I normally take from the mainland to our island was closed for a few hours while they were filming πŸ™‚

    1. I am glad you came along, Barbara! I had such a good time with my grand girls when they came to visit for “second Christmas” right after I returned from my Christmas trip to Sweden.

    1. Oh, swimming with dolphins is a wonderful treat! We have actually experienced it here close to a sand bar in the Gulf a couple of times! They have just appeared out of nowhere and stayed around to swim with us when we were snorkeling.

  7. I love visiting rehab centers for wildlife – such a great opportunity to learn about the animals and how they interact with the human environment. We have good raptor and wolf centers here. We go to zoos when we travel and some are definitely better than others. I think that bird might be a sunbittern, but am not sure. They’re out of Central and South America.

    1. Thanks for identifying the mystery bird, Michelle!! I had never heard of this bird and when I searched based on its markings, nothing came up. Rehab centers do a wonderful job in so many ways, including valuable research. We have several such facilities for sea/shore birds and raptors here…and the Marine Aquarium is of course a unique place. They also run several educational programs for kids and adults alike.

  8. Thank you for this interesting post. I haven’t been to a zoo in ages, even longer for an aquarium. I will try to do so now that I have more time and a granddaughter who is a little over 2 years of age.

    1. Your granddaughter will love visiting a zoo and/or an aquarium with her grandpa! Our smaller one is three now and she loves the animals πŸ™‚

  9. What a wonderful opportunity for your grandchildren to meet and interact with Winter!! πŸ˜€πŸ˜€ it is amazing to look and learn from the animals, always amazing, inspiring and when my son was young we visited the zoo once a month at least..a second home! They run fantastic conservation projects with other zoos around the world and always improving the areas. Wishing you a very Happy Weekend, surrounded by your glorious nature. Xxx

    1. I am happy you came along on our small outings, Annika! The experience of feeding a dolphin, and stingrays who came to take the fish from their hand, was unforgettable for the kiddos – pure joy! And the older one fed goats at the petting zoo as well. This is one good way for kids to gain appreciation of animals and nature. I wish you a wonderful weekend as well! XXX

  10. My goodness, Helen; there’s at least three posts here in one!
    It is certainly amazing that a ‘tail’ can be created for a dolphin; this opens incredible opportunities for other medical feats, then….
    Your ‘granies’ are growing so fast. They must be pure joy for both you and their proud parents. And…
    the zoo visit. Beautiful images of some delightful creatures. I believe Michelle may have found the mystery bird. It certainly looks similar to the sunbittern; a gorgeous bird, indeed.
    All in all a great post. I must admit; I was rather taken with the little wallaby! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

    1. Winter’s story, her new tail and how she uses it, has inspired so many kids, including those little ones who themselves have a prosthetic arm or leg or some other kind of disability ❀ I have to tell you that when we were at the zoo, my 7 y.o. grand girl and I were allowed to go into the "home" of the little wallaby and her family. We were silent and carefully walked the little paths admiring them. It was a great experience πŸ™‚ Have a wonderful weekend XXX

  11. Oh wow, how I absolutely loved this post, Helen! So good to see you are back to the Land of the Living!! Gorgeous pictures and I thank you so much for not only taking them but posting them. (((HUGS))) AmyπŸ’ž

    1. Against all odds, Winter has survived and adapted to her new physical shape very well…and the tail is truly amazing. Glad you came along to greet her.

  12. The shots are amazing! And I loved those movies 😁
    We have so many incredible places to explore here in Florida!
    Hope the New Year has started off well for you, Helen…I send all good thoughts πŸ’œ

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