SEA WORLD SAN ANTONIO—Have you ever seen a sea lion smile, heard them “talk” or saw them flipping through the air?
Well I did and it was inspiring.
These peppy pinnipeds were amazing during a brief visit with them at Sea World San Antonio. The sea lion trainers were equally amazing but somehow fell short of the actual sea lions.
After all, the sea lions are the stars, right?.
A sea lion’s contagious smile will make everyone else respond with a grin or maybe a laugh depending on what trick they are doing at the moment.
“Digit” and “Leon” are two sea lions with the Discovery Point interactive program at SeaWorld San Antonio.
When you interact with sea lions you are up close and personal with them. The warm and gracious sea lion trainer Catherine Brown guided us through the encounter and let us know Digit has a bit more manners than the silly Leon.
Each person that goes through the interactive program will be shown simple hand gestures the trainers use with the animals. Each gesture will result in a different behavior such as smiling, waving and various water tricks.
During the interaction the trainers reward each behavior with love, attention and of course fresh fish.
It was amazing to watch each animal respond to the attention of the trainers. The love and attention given to each animal was just as important to them as the fish. Although they never turned down the fish.
Ms Brown also discussed the anatomy of the sea lion, showing us their fur, fins, teeth, and vibrissae, which resemble whiskers. Each body part of the sea lion was created for a unique and special purpose in sea lions.
Their “whiskers” allow sea lions to feel vibrations in water which is used for hunting fish for their meals in the wild. In Seaworld these “whiskers” help them balance balls for guests.
It was incredible to learn all of the different parts and their purpose for survival in the wild. Ms Brown also shared stories of rescuing wild, baby sea lions and releasing them when they were able to survive on their own.
Seaworld trainers are more than just entertainment and caretakers of the resident animals. Each of them are involved in species survival and rescue programs around the world.
As the encounter ended, we waved goodbye to the fun-loving creatures and I left a bit of my heart with them and I took away memories for a lifetime of love for the species, especially Digit and Leon.
If you would like to visit these remarkable animals and many more visit SeaWorld San Antonio and to register for an encounter with sea lions or other animals go to www.seaworldparks.com.
At “The Wildlife Journalist” we believe encounters with animals like this and ecotourism are crucial for creating an interest in wildlife conservation. With at least two generations completely hooked on electronic devices it might take jumping into cool water and getting roared at by a sea lion to let them know there is more to life than what appears on a screen.
And maybe, just maybe such an encounter will create in them a love and determination to help our world’s wonderful marine mammals.