8/9/15

Hosing Around With the Sea Lions

We've seen it before. The sea lions just love to play around with the hose.

Well, it happened again. During an enrichment session, the trainers offered a gushing hose to the boisterous sea lions and they took it and swam with it. Just watch...



While the pair was splashing around behind-the-scenes, Zoe created her own fountain. It's fun to watch her figure out how to hold the hose just right so the water falls directly into her mouth. Sierra  sidled up to get in on the action too.

Interestingly, the hoses in the exhibit can run fresh and salt water. The sea lions seem to prefer the feel of fresh water in their mouths. But they don't need the freshwater for drinking. They get all the hydration they need from their fishy meals.

Check out this list of fun times with the sea lions:

8/6/15

An Underwater Kiss

Reggae and his trainer Marie are working on some exciting—and quite refreshing—new skills this summer. Marie is working with him underwater! Here's a short clip to show you what it's like.



Of course, kissing is just a fun way for the trainer and seal to connect during a training session. But working with a seal underwater and helping him become comfortable with the trainer in this element could open up a whole new way to observe the animals in their exhibit.

Come check out the harbor seal training sessions this summer! You might just see Reggae and his trainer eye-to-eye underwater.

7/7/15

Three jugs and two lugs

Whether you're on a raft or a ring or simply bobbing at the surface, who doesn't love a relaxing float in the pool? When the seals and sea lions need a rest, they often take to the pool, too. And that's when you can see a really cool fur seal posture called jug handling. Holding their flippers together, away from their body resembles the handle of a jug or pitcher.

Exhibit A.

Ursula (foreground) and Chiidax and Kitovi (L to R behind her)

Jug handling lets the fur seals regulate their body temperature when floating in the 60 F water. You see, the seals have many veins running through their flippers and these veins contain a heated blood supply. By tucking their flippers together in a flipper sandwich and keeping them out of the water, the seals keep the heat from rapidly leaving their flippers and body. 

Note the two lumps of sea lion lazing in the deeper part of the pool

In the background you can see the sea lions, Zoe and Sierra, logging at the surface. Sea lions sometimes sleep in the water but they don't jug handle. Sometimes they "sail" with a front and/or rear flipper straight up in the air while their body floats. Another difference between the sea lions and fur seals: blubber versus fur. The sea lions have a nice layer of blubber to stay warm, and the fur seals rely on their super-thick fur coats—even when wet.

When they're not relaxing in the pool, these animals are definitely a rambunctious crew. Check out some of their antics in these blog posts:

6/27/15

Commander In Command

If you think Commander looks big in pictures, you should see him in real life! Plan a visit to the Aquarium to meet our newest fur seal. Save time and buy your tickets online.

As many of our visitors have already seen, our newest Northern fur seal is taking command of the marine mammal center! Commander arrived from the Seattle Aquarium via FedEx back in February. He underwent a routine quarantine behind the scenes, and he's since been slowly introduced to the animals—and visitors—in the exhibit over the past couple weeks.

Big, handsome fella

Commander is a nearly-400-pound male Northern fur seal named for some fur seal breeding islands in the Bering Sea. He comes to the Aquarium as part of a breeding program. With only nine individuals of this species in North American zoos and aquarium, this mature adult will hopefully hit it off with Ursula (who has already had two pups—Flaherty and Kitovi) and grow the genetic diversity of this population with more pups.

Commander with one of his trainers, Lindsay

Commander's trainers say he is very smart and attentive as they work with him to build new relationships and routines in his new home. He's also learning new skills that will help with his husbandry.

Take a bow! We'd like a closer look at that flipper, please.
Hand signals: Open wide! Time to check those teeth.

Commander is the only mature male in the exhibit. He eats around 36 pounds of food every day—that's around 15,000 calories—and his appetite is huge right now. He'll put on more weight by this summer. He is easy to spot since males are markedly bigger than females, out-weighing them by several hundred pounds. The females—Roxie, Ursula and young Kitovi—mostly stay out of his way, as they would in the wild. Young Chiidax also keeps his distance. While little Chi is male, he has a long time to go until he's considered an adult. The sea lions—Zoe and Sierra—are a little more feisty and they engage the big man now and then. 

Commander and fish
These social interactions—or avoidances— are all part of establishing a new dynamic in the exhibit and are considered perfectly normal. In fact, it's fascinating to see these relationships develop. Come see! Plan a visit and get to know our big, handsome new arrival.

6/19/15

Let's all go to the movies!

You may have seen the rash of #PrattKeeping images being splashed across the internet this week.

A casual search for #Prattkeeping will turn up all sorts of trainers interacting with animals

It's an internet meme with trainers interacting with the animals in their care to resemble a scene from Jurassic World. In the scene, Chris Pratt is working with his velocoraptors. We've been loving the reenactments with walruses, ostriches, giraffes, tortoises, chickens and everything in between.

Here's the scene from Jurassic World that's proven to be quite the inspiration.
Chris Pratt plays a velocraptor trainer in the new movie. (Can you imagine?!)

Well, our marine mammals are always up for some fun, so of course they wanted in on the act!

Erin with Sierra and Zoe, our California sea lions, and Commander, our big handsome fur seal

Patty with Kit and Chidaxx, our youngest Northern fur seals

Lindsay with Lana, Chuck and Reggae the Atlantic harbor seals

We always knew our seals and sea lions had a little Hollywood in them! Enjoy, hope you have a great weekend. Come by and say hello to our talented group of marine mammals (and trainers!) sometime.