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Marine Mammal Keeper - Sea World
Sea World Marine Mammal Keeper Experience.
The day was described as a mammal keepers experience, spend the day behind the scenes with a keeper, a maximum of 3 people per group at a cost of $400.
I arrived at Sea World at 6.25 am ready for the 6.30 start. I am Nigel Lewis aged 43 and I was sat there like an excited little boy. I couldn’t wait to get involved with the animals behind the scenes at Sea World.
At 6.30 Laura arrived to greet myself and the 1 other person who had booked the day. We introduced ourselves and then off we went on a golf cart to our first port of call.
We arrived at an area where they looked after injured manatees and green turtles. There were several turtles being cared for with various injuries and five manatees. Two of the manatees were in a special pool where the floor could be raised to bring the manatees to the surface for easy access to treat them. As we arrived they were in the process of raising the floor. One of the manatees had a kind of wet suit wrapped around it. The keeper explained that she had been hit by a boat and had a severe gash to her side. This was causing her to be unbalanced so this suit was added to help correct this. The keeper then explained that the manatee was dehydrated and they inserted a tube into her stomach and gave her some fluids. We were then asked if we would like to feed the other manatees to which we eagerly replied yes. Four large boxes of lettuce were given to us which we shared between two pools. We then went to a third pool where their youngest manatee was in quarantine. We were not allowed to touch her as she was very susceptible to all kinds of infection. You can not imagine how hard it was to resist the temptation to touch, she was so adorable, but we had to do what was best for her. We went to the next pool where they had a seven month old baby. We were able to touch this time, in fact we got to bottle feed her which was amazing. What a fantastic start to the day. If it had ended there it would have been worth every cent and it was only 7.15am.
We got back on to the golf cart and of we went. We went into the park and to the manatee exhibit. The keepers were in the pool with a giant vacuum cleaner, cleaning the bottom. The manatees had just been given there lettuce so were all feeding. The largest one we were told is overweight at 3500 pounds but they can’t put her on a diet as she just eats everyone else’s. One of the manatees that had been there about two years had not been expected to survive. She had been hit by a boat and was seriously injured. She had to have one of her pectoral fins removed and three quarters of her tail was also removed as it was so badly damaged. She had made a remarkable recovery, although she will never be fit enough to be released I’m sure she will enjoy the rest of her life at Sea World.
Off again and we were on our way to see most peoples favourite, the Dolphins. When we arrived there were about eight keepers there getting ready for the early morning check and feeding of the dolphins. We were paired up with a keeper and assigned three dolphins each. At the dolphin exhibit we had to go to a certain spot that our dolphins were to come to. The trainer asked the dolphin to do something specific and when they did I gave them some fish. Some of the fish had vitamins added as they feed frozen fish which looses some of its nutrients when defrosted. It was great to get so close to them and the park was still closed at this point so there was no trying to squeeze in to get close. We were told we would come back again later and get even closer, WOW.
We were then off to see the sea lions. We drove to the Clyde and Seymour exhibit and went behind the scenes. At the back there are several pens housing injured animals as well as the performing animals. None of the sea lions are actually called Clyde or Seymour and there are about six different animals who play them. We were then introduced to the original two who played the part of Clyde and Seymour, now retired, with cataracts on their eyes but still living happily together. We went into their pool area. They still remember their routine from the show and we gave them signals and they eagerly performed with the reward of some lovely fish. It was surprising how big they were and how noisy. They were quite intimidating at times but a fantastic experience. We then went to the main sea lion exhibit where we helped prepare five large buckets of fish. We were given two bucket each and we fed what can only be described as a bunch of hooligans, when the saw us arrive with buckets the sea lions went berserk, you could hardly hear yourself think, it was great fun watching them all compete for the fish.
It was now 11.15am and we went to one of the staff canteens where lunch was provided for us and very nice it was too!
After lunch we went and changed into a wet suit. Now we were going to get really hands on. We went back to the dolphin exhibit where we were taken into the exhibit itself. We went to a special area with a ledge for us to kneel on, in the water. There we got to interact with the dolphins. We got to touch them, stroke them and even wrap our arms around them. It was absolutely fantastic. A photographer took photo’s of which we would get one free included in our package.
From there we went over to Wild Arctic. We were taken in to the Beluga exhibit where we got to feed the Beluga. I was asked to kneel at the edge of the water and lift my arm to the side, upon this the Beluga came out of the water and kissed me, ( who says I never get the girl?) I was the envy of everyone watching. We then went around the back where the polar bears were kept. For obvious reasons we could not get too close to these but it was a lot closer than you would normally get. Next were the walruses. They were huge!! They came up to a large steel barred gate. Through the gate we fed them, kissed them and asked them to perform tricks. Three tons in weight and they had us in stitches they were so funny, the more we laughed the more they seemed to enjoy it. What a truly fabulous day this had been. We went and got a shower and got changed. We were given a mammal keepers tee shirt and a seven day pass to Sea World. The day ended at 2.30pm.
I would not hesitate to recommend this day to anyone, young or old. If you enjoy the animals at Sea World you will love this. It is definitely FIVE STAR!!!
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