Seal and Sea Lions: Training

RIVERBANKS ZOO (WJBF) – In our second edition of Wild Encounters, Micah Rumsey is back at the pool with the seal and sea lions of Riverbanks Zoo.  Mammal Keeper Alyson Goodwin explains how the daily shows are more than just entertainment, but physical and mental training.  Here’s a look at their conversation:

Micah: Welcome into our second part of seals and sea lions here on Wild Encounters at Riverbanks Zoo.  I’m once again here with Alyson and we’re going to be talking about the enrichment that they do, the seals and sea lions, and our seal Gambit is swimming around.  Oh, the sea lions just showed up as well so we have the whole crew here behind us.  So Alyson, tell us about, first of all, this fantastic exhibit that we have here.  It’s relatively new in the last year.  Tell us all about it.

Alyson: Well, it’s a great exhibit.  It’s salt water so everything in here is a salinity that we keep very precise and it’s actually, this outside pool, is about 250,000 gallons and then we have two holding pools in the back.  One is about 15,000 and the other is about 25,000.

Micah:  So plenty of water here for the seals and sea lions.  So what we’re going to be doing here soon is, they’re going to be going through their enrichment.  Explain what that process is, what they’re learning and also what you’re doing to kind of check them out as you go through that.

Alyson:  Absolutely.  So, all of our sea lions and seal go through training twice a day and so the training is a big part of their enrichment.  They’re very smart animals.  They love learning.  They love doing new stuff and being active and they love playing.  So we have to constantly keep them engaged otherwise they try to cause trouble elsewhere.  So, we do a lot of training with them.  It’s different based on the animal.  Baja and PJ, they’re both really well trained sea lions who came to us with a bunch of behaviors so we’re working on stuff like tactile touching, practice blood draws, voluntary x-rays.  We can work on having them roll onto their side, which is a behavior we all “over” and so we can look at their body, make sure everything is good.  So everything you see here in the training session pretty much has a purpose.  It’s either to help them exercise or it’s to help us to take better care of them.

Micah:  And these seals and sea lions here have great stories.  They’re here for a reason.  They’re here for conservation reasons to help them out.  I know specifically, Anette, we were talking about before we started filming.  Tell us a little bit about Anette’s story.

Alyson:  So Anette, she’s a little bit special.  She was first rehabbed in 2014 and she rebeached herself and they took her in again and then she rebeached herself.  Long story short, she stranded herself about five times within a span of a year, so that fifth time, they actually were petitioned just to keep her because obviously the wild wasn’t working out for her for one reason or another.  So she ended up at San Diego being rehabbed and then she went to Myrtle Beach and then we actually took her.

Micah:  So we have this great program here that not only gives us a great show and also gets to see them in a great conservation habitat but also helping them as they maybe struggle a little bit in the wild and you’re giving them a great home to help them out.  We have this great show that’s going to be going on.  You can always come down here to Riverbanks Zoo and see the show for yourself in person, but fortunately, we’re getting a little bit of a show ourselves here.  So thank you for joining us here on Wild Encounters.  We’ll see you next time.

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