This post is written by Alicia Kemery, Sea Lion Keeper, through the eyes of Cali, one of the Houston Zoo’s resident sea lions.
Kamia, my sea lion sister, and I are early risers. We are up and swimming around before the sun rises and our keepers arrive. Our male sea lion, Rockie, on the other hand, prefers to lounge around behind the scenes. Sometimes we sleep outside on exhibit, and sometimes behind the scenes in our bedroom…I just go with the flow because that’s just how I am.
When our keepers arrive, they always check in on us and say good morning. Our keepers change things on us all the time: we never know if they are going to clean our exhibit first, play music, give us enrichment, or do class time first. I really get into class time & enrichment! Enrichment is like recess; it’s anything that changes our environment…and that we typically play with. My favorite enrichment is ice, but Ozarka bottles with fish & fish pops are a close second. There’s lots of other enrichment too, like bubbles, water play, toys, scents, music…the list is endless!
When I’m in class, I get to play with the keepers and learn things too. Sometimes I go into the keeper area and give kisses, hop up on the cart, learn a new behavior, work on research, play & goof off, and do husbandry behaviors too.
For those of you who don’t know what a husbandry behavior is, I will school you. It’s a medical behavior or any behavior that helps them take better care of us. They brush our teeth, look into our eyes with flashlights and they will listen to us breathe with a stethoscope. They’ve been getting us more comfortable with more complicated behaviors too, like x-rays, taking blood, and ultrasounds. These behaviors are highly positive and I will tell you why…for anyone who knows me, I’m a “wiggle worm!” So, the keepers’ give me a bunch of food and play with me for being still. They get really excited which makes it fun for me.
The vets are also very nice and feed me too. I like all the subjects in class because I get lots of fish, but most of all, play time with the keepers. I really enjoy interacting with them and seeing what crazy things I can get them to do…they think they’re training me, but really, I am training them…it’s great! They all love us very much. I’ve heard them say they spend more time with us than their own kids.
After the shows and class time, the keepers start wrapping things up for the day because they go home to their human companions. We will typically swim and play for a couple more hours before snuggling up for bedtime. Some people don’t know this, but we sleep on land and can be out of water for 8 plus hours at a time.
Oh! That reminds me…sometimes we take naps underwater. Guests always get worried… it’s okay! We can hold our breath for up to 20 minutes! So, sometimes we will lie on top of the drain or under a pipe to make it easier to stay at the bottom of the pool then snooze for a little bit. Cool, huh?
Speaking of all of you, our guests, we enjoy people watching and warming your hearts. So, please come by and visit us; we would love to see you! Well, that’s all I can think of for the moment. So, on that note, I’m going to go see what my keepers are up to. See you later!