APPLE VALLEY (AP) -- Almost a hundred children and more than a few adults squirm and chatter excitedly in anticipation of the Minnesota Zoo's 10 a.m. dolphin show.
"Did you guys come to see trained dolphins today?" yells trainer Jenny Beem.
The fervent crowd screams their reply: "Yeah!"
"Well, sorry," Beem answers.
The awe-inspiring jumps and breathtaking leaps usually common in the dolphins' performances are temporarily on hold while trainers attempt to coax the Apple Valley zoo's most anticipated newcomer into making her public debut.
The new dolphin calf just doesn't seem interested in swimming from the maternity pool, where she has spent her 2 1/2 months of life, through the underwater gate to the large pool where dolphin shows are held.
It's not that she's scared or shy, trainers say. She's just enjoying her freedom too much when Rio, her mother, briefly leaves her alone to go to the large pool.
"It's like, 'Whee! Mom's gone! Let's have some fun,' " said Diane Fusco, who's in charge of the zoo's marine mammal program.
Rio's 6-year-old son, D.J., complicated things in late September by moving unexpectedly into the other large back pool. Like his younger sister, he has never been fond of the underwater gates, and he hasn't been back to the performance pool since then.
The subsequent shuffling has left the zoo with just two dolphins to carry the popular shows. Neither is known for acrobatics.
"We've got Semo, who is quite old, and Ayla, who is quite bent," said Kevin Willis, the zoo's director of biological programs. Ayla, the zoo's 10-year-old dolphin, was born with scoliosis and, as a dolphin adolescent, likes to do her own thing. At 38 years old, Semo, the new calf's father, is nearing the end of his lifespan, although he's almost always on cue.
Semo's tail-walk and the subsequent splashes still draw big oohs and ahhs. And the possibility of Ayla spitting on the Friday-morning crowd draws loud cheers from the Kenyon-Wanamingo Middle School fifth-graders sitting near the front of the bleachers.
Many, like Betsy Chastain of Minneapolis, say the insight into dolphin training at the current shows is great. Some, like Ken Chastain, miss the gravity-defying leaps. Others, like the Chastains' 2-year-old son, Henri, just seem delighted to see dolphins.
"We're all anxious for that baby to come out," said zoo volunteer Maryce Carl of Hastings. "It's time."
At one point, zoo staff considered taking more drastic measures -- chasing the calf through the channel with a net was one possibility -- but they didn't want to her to associate the gate with something scary.
So instead, trainers are cajoling Rio to leave her calf and put in at least a brief appearance before the 10 a.m. dolphin show.
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