Sea Lions | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD


Next on Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, Jonathan dives with sea lions in the Galapagos… and heads over to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut to learn how smart these animals really are! Hey! Good work! Hi, I’m Jonathan Bird and
welcome to my world! ( ♪ music ) The Galapagos. These remote
islands are one of my favorite
places in the world to dive. The land ranges from
desert-like and inhospitable,
to lush and green. And the Galapagos are famous
for endemic species such as the
massive land tortoise that
munches on grass and leaves, and the
marine iguana. Underwater, huge schools of
hammerhead sharks patrol the
drop-off. And a sea lion, apparently
knowing that it is a protected
species, sleeps peacefully just inches from my lens. The sea lions in the Galapagos
are so comfortable around
people that they have even
taken over a few of the marinas. Good luck
walking down these steps! Out on a beach, a sea lion
mother sleeps peacefully while
her pup nurses. Pretty soon it
will be mom’s turn to go feed and
the pup will rest. This is 3 month old pup, and
he’s still nursing from his
mother. But she’s out at sea feeding right now and he’s
taking a nap. Even though sea lions rest on
land, their true personality
can only be seen underwater. So I’m gearing up for a dive
near a sea lion colony to see
what they think of me. I board the Zodiac with my
cameraman Pierre for a short
trip to Cousins rock. Jonathan: “Ready?” Boat driver: “Uno, Dos, Tres.” Pierre and I roll into the
chilly water and within
seconds, a young sea lion
buzzes me. The younger ones are the most
playful. Once they figure out
that I’m in the mood to play with them, the sea lions
come from every direction,
zooming past my camera lens,
blowing bubbles and generally making me
feel like a pretty pathetic
swimmer! The sea lions are lithe and
flexible, able to twist and
turn on a dime, bending their bodies into what seems like
impossible angles. Soon, I’m approached by a
larger animal an adult male sea
lion. When it comes to sea lions, the adult males have
control over a section of
beach, a section of water, and all the females and younger
males in the area. This guy
wants to know who is messing
with his section of ocean, and
whether or not I pose a threat.
I’m not sure what his strange croaking vocalizations mean,
but he certainly finds my
camera lens interesting. It’s
important that I do not do anything to
challenge him, because he has
big teeth, and he can bite. Finally he decides I’m not
doing anything to cause
concern, and departs. Then the younger sea lions go
back to their antics, hanging
upside down and playing in a little overhang under the
reef. You know, very few
animals in the ocean will play with people, and sea lions
are probably the most playful.
It’s so great, you get in the water and they’re like
puppy dogs. They just love
divers! They want to play and hang out for hours—it’s just
great fun! My experience in the Galapagos
with sea lions showed me that
these animals are a lot like dogs. They are curious,
playful, and seem to enjoy
interaction with people. But how smart are they? I want to learn
more about these aquatic puppy
dogs… So I have come to the Mystic
Aquarium in Connecticut to
learn about sea lions from some
experts. Since 1973, the Mystic Aquarium
in Mystic Connecticut has been
one of the premiere public aquaria in the United States.
Their exhibits both large and
small highlight underwater life from all around the world. Perhaps one of their most
famous exhibits is the outdoor
Beluga whale habitat—where sometimes it’s not actually
clear who is watching whom. The Mystic sea lion program is
famous around the country for
the amazing skills they have taught to their California sea
lions. The Mystic sea lion team is
going to show me how they train
the animals and how smart they are. First I meet with sea
lion trainer Deborah Pazzaglia.
She introduces me to the largest sea lion at Mystic—a
big male named Cocoa. Deb: “Hi big guy” Jonathan: “WOW!” Deb: “Good. This is Coco!” Jonathan: “Hi Coco.” Deb: “He is 24 years old. He
weighs over 700 pounds.” I’m a little nervous about
getting a smooch from an 800
pound sea lion, but this is my job! Whew! Fish breath! Deb: “Good boy. ( clap ) There
you go you can stand up. You’re
all set.” Jonathan: I gotta tell you
what, that’s a big animal!! Next I meet a smaller sea lion
named Boomerang, and Deb shows
me how they start the training program. Deb: “So this is Boomerang.
He’s four years old.” It involves a lot of fish and a
bright ball on a stick as a
target to keep the animal’s attention. Deb: “…trusting relationship.
Once we establish that. We pair
that word ‘good’ that I was telling you about
with the fish. Say about target
to actually be hand signal. Then pretty soon it’s just ta
da. Well, hello! Good boy. Good! “So when we train the animals
we give them lots of hand
signals. That gets them to do the behaviors we want them to
do. Good. And were going to let
you see what it’s like to be a trainer.” Jonathan: “Alright.” Deb: “Good. So what we’re going
to do is, I’m going to use
those targets again. Now it’s my turn to try
training. Deb: “You’re going to stand up
right next to him over here.
Back up a little bit. There you go here we are. That’s
perfect. Now when I give you
the hand signal he’s going to switch his focus to over to
you.” Jonathan: “OK” DED: “And that’s when I’m gonna
have you put your fists
together.” Jonathan: “Fists together?” Deb: “Fists together.” Jonathan: “OK” Boomerang makes noise Deb: “You can drop them” Jonathan: “That is the signal
to burp?” Deb: ( laughs ) “Actually you
know what’s funny about that.
He didn’t do the right behavior. That’s not what he
was suppose to do.” Jonathan: “Really?” Deb: “Not at all. Good. So I
didn’t reinforce him. I just
let him sit there for a second.” Jonathan: “OK.” Deb: “Remember” Jonathan: “Alright.” Deb: “Alright.” Jonathan: “Got it.” Deb: “If you want to do that
behavior. Let’s let you do that
behavior here we go.” Boomerang makes noise Deb: “Good.” BOTH: “Alright!” Deb: “Let me try this one more
time. BARK!” ( boomerang barks ) Deb: “Good. Alright here’s your
time to shine. Let’s see how
good of a trainer you are. Ready? Jonathan: “OK.” Deb: “You’re with him” Later, I head behind the scenes
to learn what it takes to keep
these sea lions healthy and well fed. Jen: “This is Julie.” Jonathan: “Hi Julie, Jonathan.
I’d shake your hand, but ewww!” Inevitably, these things always
seem to involve some smelly
fish. Jen: “Even though we get this
from restraint distributors
it’s the same fish you would get if you went to order it. We
want to make sure that it’s
really high quality and we’re not feeding animals something
that will make them sick. I meet trainer Jen Rego, who
happened to pull fish duty
today. Jen: Any fish that have cuts in
them, like this is” We have to thaw, sort and
inspect the fish. Jen: “…Bacteria to get in
there and we don’t want to feed
that to our animals” Jonathan: “You guys need some
sharks. They love the ones with
the cuts in them.” Jen: “We make sure that there’s
nothing going to make our sea
lions sick.” Jonathan: “This one’s like a
board.” Jen: “Yup! So we’re going to
run under water kind of soften
up a bit. So he’s got a little bit of that fish
wiggle to him. Perfect.” Jonathan: “Nice. Come back.
Maybe we can revive him. Jen: “I don’t know if the seal
lions want to work for their
lunch.” Jonathan: “How pliable does he
need to be?” They do this 6 times a day!
Those sea lions are hungry! Jen: “So we are finally done.” Jonathan: “Yeah” Jen: “That’s our fish for this
session.” Jonathan: “That’s a lot of
fish. I’m just saying. WOW!” Jen: “So right here. This is
all the fish the sea lions ear
for 1 out of 6 session for the day.” Jonathan: “So you’re starting
it again in 2 hours?” Jen: “Exactly” Jonathan: “Hopefully we’ll be
out of here by then.” Next, trainer Kristen Patti
takes me out to the stage where
I’ll try one of the less glamorous jobs in the Mystic
Aquarium. Jonathan: “So these go over my
shoes then?” Kristen: “They do. Hopefully
they’ll fit.” Jonathan: “These are like
galoshes. You know. What if my
foot is too big? I don’t think it’s going on. They’re
never going to come off. Now I
wear my muck boots. It’s never a good sign when you
gotta put on foot wear like
this before you get started. OK I’m ready. I’m ready.” Kristen: “Ready? We’re going in
the back and go on stage” Jonathan: “OK” Kristen: “Hose off some of that
nice big poop right here.” Jonathan: “Alright (laughs)
We’re hosing some poop. Stand
back. Stand back–crazy man with a hose. That’s right.
There like oh hose that in the
water with us. What are you doing? I think this one’s dried
on.” Lets just say that the smell of
sea lion poop is unpleasant.
Not a job I want to do every
day. My day at the Mystic aquarium
is a lot of fun. What did I
learn? Sea lions are very smart—at least as intelligent
as dogs. Some of the sea lions
at the Mystic Aquarium know more than 100 commands and hand
signals! But when they aren’t performing
in the show, they are still
just fun loving sea lions, goofing around underwater—to
the delight of people of all
ages! ( ♪ music )

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