Aquarium puts spotlight on other tales - FOX 13 News

Aquarium puts spotlight on other tales

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CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

There is just a hint of sibling rivalry in the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's new advertising campaign.

"I have a tale too!" billboards in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas proclaim, accompanied by pictures of Bailey the sea turtle, Oscar the otter, a dolphin named Hope and a pair of California pelicans.

All are permanent residents of CMA, as is Winter, the star of the motion picture "Dolphin Tale."

Winter has had a tremendous impact on CMA attendance, but executive director David Yates said there are other great stories there.

"We have some other great animal stories here. Every animal we bring in has a unique story as to how they got here, why they got here, what they mean to our team, their medical issues," he said.

Hope, for example, was rescued five years and one day after Winter's rescue, less than five miles from where Winter was found, and on the very day filming of "Dolphin Tale" wrapped up.

"We were all in nice clothes that day and then we got a call we had to get in our wet suits and get ready to accept a new baby dolphin from the same place as Winter," mammal supervisor John Widick recalled.

Hope and Oscar were both orphaned as babies, so life in the wild is no longer a possibility.

"Mammals in general, as well as birds, need to be raised by at least one of their parents, and with mammals it has to be their mother, they need to nurse, they need milk," Widick explained.

Human caregivers can cover food and shelter, but cannot teach an animal how to find food or avoid predators.

So at CMA they sort of become educators in captivity.

"We can talk to kids about marine life and the environment for 12 hours straight, and you don't connect sometimes," Yates admitted. "You put a face on it, whether that's Winter's, or Hope the dolphin, or one of our turtles or one of our otters, they get excited, they get engaged and they'll learn much, much quicker."

Different animals might appeal to different children. Still, it is hard to imagine a bigger boost to attendance than "Dolphin Tale." Last summer, University of South Florida St. Petersburg economists predicted "Dolphin Tale" would continue growing attendance at least through 2016, when it might reach 2.3 million visitors a year.

Yates said 2012's attendance already exceeds the 800,000 visitors forecasted for 2013.

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