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Profile Copan: Tribute to a Remarkable Dolphin by George Kieffer On May 23, 2015, a mesmerizing sculp- ture by the renowned Curaçao artist Yubi Kirindongo was unveiled before a gathering of island dignitaries, Curaçao Sea Aquarium staff, and their families and friends. This seven-foot-tall monument, in the distinct form of a dolphin, was revealed overlooking the Dolphin Academy’s main lagoon. The lagoon is home to a com- munity of bottlenose dolphins, many of whom are the direct descendants of the subject of this statue, this testament to the original dolphin patriarch of the Curaçao Dolphin Academy. The congregation that evening was there to pay tribute and celebrate the life and times of a remarkable dolphin. His name... was Copan. I’m George Kieffer, Director of Dolphins and Programs here at Dolphin Academy. I’ve been working with dolphins through- out my entire adult life. I’ve worked with over 100 individual dolphins, and they are all unique, and they are all special. But Copan will forever hold a distinctive place in my heart – and in the hearts of a whole lot of other people. 54 Nights Copan’s history with human beings is closely intertwined with my own history with dolphins. That’s because we spent the better part of 23 years working together. Copan and I arrived on Curaçao together in 2002... but our first meeting was much earlier than that. Our story begins in 1989. I was a member of a group of US dol- phin trainers that had been commissioned to train dolphins for a new dolphin facility in Honduras – the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS). Eldon Bolton of Gulfport, Mississippi, was the leader of our team. In November of that year, seven dol- phins had been collected from a large bay along the north coast of Honduras as part of a government sanctioned marine laboratory on the island of Roatan. The lab would host numerous US universities and research institutions. Copan was one of those dolphins. Copan excelled in every aspect of his training and cooperation with humans. He was learning new behaviors at an unprecedented pace. Copan also asserted himself as the socially dominant male of the group. Over the next few years Copan had become the star of his class, and a bit of a legend among the island community. In 1994, the outside world began to take notice. Hollywood executives had become in- trigued by the fact that we were working with the dolphins not only in spacious natural water enclosures but also in the open sea. They were especially impressed with the exuberance and enthusiasm of one dolphin in particular who had a habit of arching his back at the height of his jumps in a seemingly proud display. E Photos courtesy of Dolphin Academy