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.
"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.