2017 Training Stats

Miles Completed = 29.01
(Run/Walked = 29.01, Biked = 0.0, Elliptical = 0.0)


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sea World Mammal Keeper Part 1 - September 6, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Today did not start out good at all! My iPhone alarm went off at 4:30am and my work phone alarm went off at 4:40am and I turned them both off - totally ignored them. Next time I wake up it's 6am.

I should have left 10 minutes ago. The program starts at 6:30am. I have a tendency to get lost. Crud.

I jumped out of bed, pulled on my clothes, brushed my teeth and ran out the door at 6:10am. I literally ran to my car to leave and drive to Sea World.

I manage to make it to the employee parking lot and start to panic as the instructions say to park in a visitor spot but all the spots say reserved. I pull out of the lot thinking that I'm in the wrong parking lot, but I'm definitely not. I pull back in and decide to chance it and park.

I headed to the security gate and the guard tells me I'm fine and points me to the security building to check in. I walk in - I know I'm a few minutes late and I feel bad, but at least they didn't leave without me.

Maggie is our program guide for the day. She's been with Sea World for 8 years. She came here straight out of college and has been here ever since. I will later find out that she also worked at the Living Seas in Epcot - cool!

There are two other guests in the program with me today - three is the maximum they allow. The Krista -works for Disney Cruise Line and Shawn - I don't remember what he does. Everyone is friendly so it's going to be a great day!

We headed back to the backstage animal care area, set our bags down in the office and headed out to meet our first animal of the day.

Oscar, a male dolphin is in an isolation pool because he has a broken jaw. A few of the dolphins got a bit rough out in Dolphin Cove and Oscar took the brunt of the horseplay and ended up with a broken bottom jaw. To help the jaw heal they are using neoprene (wetsuit material) cut to fit his rostrum (snout) that keeps his mouth shut. They have 2 people monitoring him 24 hours a day because he's a brat and he keeps taking his sleeve off. While they watch him they record his respirations every half hour. He's being hand fed fish because he can't use his bottom jaw.

Next we head over to another pool and this is where we meet Sabrina, Peanut and Hekeili. We watch them for a few minutes and then we get to help feed them some of their daily fish. They were all very hyper and hard to keep in the right place. So fun to watch them and feed them.

The manatees that are too young, injured or getting ready to release are all kept back here. Today there are five manatees. We get to feed the manatees this morning - 5 full cases of romaine lettuce. We throw in full heads of lettuce and the manatees are gobbling it up!

Also in the back area are Asian Small-Clawed Otters - two pair. Marie and Charlie are one pair and Ivan and Katrina are the other pair. Notice they are all named after hurricanes. Each otter gets weighed and fed. They are fed canned cat food, shrimp and fish. They smell a bit like fishy ferrets since they have scent glands. The coolest thing is the noises they make - so hard to describe, but they remind me of strange squeak toys.

We head back to the office to get our bags, but on the way there they are getting ready to feed Oscar so we stop to watch this procedure. One to two people hold him in place and then another puts the fish in his mouth and acts as his bottom jaw so he can swallow the fish. He's a pretty good patient and eats his fish and vitamins.

Now we have our bags and we head to the locker room. Time to put on wetsuits and booties. Then we head over to Dolphin Cove. We start out in the fish house where their food is kept for the day and the records of each of the 19 dolphins is kept.

Then the fun really starts! We head back behind Dolphin Cove and get ready to interact with the dolphins. A trainer took me and we waded in the water and knelt down at the edge - then the dolphins came over to us. We had them do different behaviors - wave, jump, talk, etc...As they did their behaviors correctly we fed them and rubbed them down. After a few minutes we switched and Krista and Shawn got a turn to do an interaction. Then we did another session each. This was just amazing. It's very cool to see all those dolphins come up to you and you don't have to share with anyone else!

Mammal Keeper Dolphin Cove 1Mammal Keeper Dolphin Cove 2Mammal Keeper Dolphin Cove 3Mammal Keeper Dolphin Cove 4

Next we headed to a little shed to get toys to show to the dolphins through the glass in the underwater viewing area. I had a pink racquetball, a pool noodle and we all had duct tape. Sounds strange right? It is, until you do it. We headed down to the viewing area and started throwing the balls against the glass, tapping the glass with the pool noodles, and rearranging the tape on the glass. Okay, this was so cool. The dolphins would watch you move the tape around and they'd stop right in front of a piece of tape they wanted you to move - you'd move it and they'd follow you. It was truly amazing and something that you wouldn't really think about. It provides the dolphins mental stimulation and they seem to really enjoy the games. Turns out the girl dolphins actually really like pink! They just try different things all the time to keep them from being bored - remote control cars, tape, balls, ropes, buoys, anything the dolphins can see.

Mammal Keeper Program Dolphin Cove 7Mammal Keeper Program Dolphin Cove 6Mammal Keeper Program Dolphin Cove 5

That was it for Dolphin Cove. I love dolphins - they are truly crazy. If you didn't know, dolphins are rather mischievous and can be rather pesky. Apparently, when the trainers dive to clean the pools the dolphins will steal their regulators, ram in to them, take whatever is in their hands, etc...I'd love to dive with them!

The vegetation freezer was the next stop. Here we picked up two full cases of bagged spinach. We were going to feed the manatees on display. Spinach is a treat to manatees - they love it. We all headed in to the display and sat down right at the edge of the pool. The manatees all came right over to us. Since manatees are endangered you are not legally allowed to touch them, but if they touch you it's okay. They came right up, so close that when they breathe you felt the breeze. We opened up the bags of spinach and basically dumped it right in on top of them. Man can these critters eat! We sat and fed them and chatted about them and by the time we were done the spinach was gone. One of the manatees was almost a casualty of hurricane Charlie - debris fell in to the exhibit and she ate it. This caused an intestinal blockage that could have killed her in the wild, but with a lot of help she managed to pass the blockage and is very healthy now. The manatee program is very strict - at any time the state can call and say release this manatee on this date - period, you have to do it. Sea World takes the girls and Epcot takes the boys. They keep them separate because they don't want them breeding in captivity.

Mammal Keeper Program Manatees 2Mammal Keeper Program Manatees 4Mammal Keeper Program Manatees 3Mammal Keeper Program Manatees 1

I'll continue on with my day at Sea World in the next post...


Gray said...

What an amazing experience! I love your photos. I feel very sorry for Oscar, but at the same time, very glad they have him. In the wild, he'd be dead with an injury like that. I would love to get up close and personal with the dolphins too. May I ask how much this program costs? How long did it last from start to finish?

Chris said...

If I were from Boston/Bahsten I'd only have two words...Wicked Cool!

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