Dolphins ready to delight crowds in Gulfport

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They showed off for the camera Tuesday and didn't mind all the strange faces around them. Bo and Buster seemed to be adjusting well to their new home, and they were having an easy time making friends.

Buster and Bo are male and female Bottlenose Dolphins. The 33-year-old dolphins have joined the family at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport.

"It's a wonderful experience after Katrina. The public has not had the opportunity to see these animals. Now we're back," said Dr. Moby Solangi, IMMS Director.

"They like attention, and Bo actually enjoys the attention less than Buster. He likes to be rubbed more," said Dr. Sharon Walker, IMMS Education and Outreach Director.

Bo and Buster belong to the U.S. Navy. When they retired recently, the pair entertained guests at Sea Life Park in Hawaii. The dolphins moved to IMMS at the end of January, and now, they're ready to delight and educate crowds in Gulfport.

"We're using them for educational purposes for the public and for our school groups," said Walker. "We're hoping people better understand the relationship we have with these magnificent creatures, as well as, the need to take care and preserve and be better stewards of our environment."

Buster and Bo will perform twice a day, except on Sundays. Starting Memorial Day weekend, IMMS will offer the Dolphin Encounters Program, where guests can feed and touch the mammals.

And Dolphin Interaction allows people to take a dip with the dolphins. On Tuesday, WLOX anchor Rebecca Powers got an up close and personal experience with Bo.

The dolphins are on loan from the Navy indefinitely, which means Gulfport could be their permanent and final home.

"I think it's very exciting. It's great for Mississippi," said Solangi.

"We're hoping over time, we'll be able to get additional dolphins and hopefully, some sea lions, as well," said Walker.

Bo and Buster are not from the group of dolphins at the old Marine Life Aquarium that were left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Those 16 displaced dolphins are living in Atlantis, a resort in the Bahamas.

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