Meet a Zookeeper for Dolphins

Zoo Trainer Highlights the Ways Guests Can Help Dolphins


When guests attend a dolphin presentation at the Indianapolis Zoo, they are quickly introduced to one of the dolphins and learn that animal’s individual story.

For Marine Mammal Trainer Trent Rowlett, that’s the highlight of each presentation because it offers visitors an opportunity to connect individually with these magnificent marine mammals then inspires those visitors to help save dolphins in the wild.

“I don’t want guests to leave the Zoo saying, ‘I saw a dolphin today,’ I want them to leave and say, ‘I saw China today and this is her story,'” said Rowlett. “Each animal has a story. (In the presentation), you get to know the animals on an individual basis and you learn why we should save them in the wild.”

Rowlett first started working at the Zoo 14 years ago as a Zoo Teen, an opportunity that inspired him at a young age to pursue a career as a dolphin trainer. After joining the animal care staff four years ago, he is now a marine mammal and carnivore trainer. In addition to working with dolphins, he also works with the walrus, tigers and many other species in the Zoo’s Oceans and Forests areas, forming a special bond with individual animals in each of those areas.

Of all the different roles he’s had over the years, he said his favorite has been helping guests connect with conservation to better understand how their lives can impact wild dolphins.

“The dolphin presentation speaks to the Zoo’s mission,” Rowlett said. “To me, it says that I have something to give to the environment – that everyone can make an impact, even in a land-locked state.”

The presentation highlights the Zoo’s partnership with The Nature Conservancy to help dolphins in the wild. With the help of the Zoo’s trainers and dolphins, as well as stunning video filmed on location in the Gulf of Mexico, patrons learn the story of wild dolphins and how their lives are connected through Indiana’s waterways.

Rowlett, who grew up in Central Indiana, said many Zoo visitors discover their connection to the Gulf for the first time when they see the presentation.

“I think the majority of people who come to the Zoo are surprised that the things they do every day have an impact locally and globally,” he said. “Your daily routine has an impact on animal conservation. Even Indiana farmers are now thinking about how they impact dolphins in the wild.”

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