KEY LARGO, Fla. – A marine mammal rehabilitation facility opened a dolphin "chat line" of sorts Saturday, hoping to teach a deaf dolphin's unborn calf to communicate.
Dolphins need to hear echoes of sounds they produce to find food, socialize and defend themselves against predators.
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"We asked ourselves 'How do we get the calf to speak when we have a deaf mother?'" said Robert Lingenfelser, the conservancy's president.
They decided to electronically connect Castaway's habitat with a lagoon at Dolphins Plus, a research and interactive educational facility a few miles down the Keys Overseas Highway. Underwater speakers and microphones were installed at both locations and connected via phone lines.
Castaway should deliver her calf in about a month.
"Even before it is born, we want the calf to have an idea of what normal dolphin vocalization is," Lingenfelser said.