ST. LOUIS, MO. (KPLR) – The sea lions are wetting appetites today at the St. Louis Zoo.
‘Target,’ says Patrick Clark. ‘Oh that’s good.’
‘This is Bennie and he is ten years old and he weighs in at 450 pounds, ‘ says Kyle Ulmer the Zoological Manager of Pinnipeds
Today Bennie was jetting around the sea lion sound.
He’s one of 11 California sea lions and a harbor seal reporting for today’s spring training.
‘What we’re doing with these for the first time ever at the zoo is really doing what we’d be doing this time of year is getting the show ready for opening, slowly training new behaviors and introducing new animals,’ says Ulmer.’ ‘We decided this year to go ahead and try opening up and doing all that in front of an audience.’
Opening day for these pinnipeds is April 6th.
But today’s capacity crowd was the biggest yet to see some fish league practices with the sea lions of summer.
‘It’s really that relationship of trust that’s involved in the training of the animals and presenting them in front of large groups because you have to trust the animal that it’s not going to run off and do something it shouldn’t and they have to trust you cause we’re bringing them out in front of a large group of people,’ says Ulmer. ‘It’s the give and take that we really like to show off.’
Trainers are still trying to iron out the kinks, running their stars through hurdles and high jumps, flipper walks and Frisbee tosses.
It’s all with the hopes of getting the sea lions used to the roar of the crowd.
‘There’s nothing magical about it as I like to say,’ says Ulmer. ‘They’re behaviors. Its conditioning and we shape behaviors in very small steps or progression. Yeah see he’s on a schedule of his own.’
That can happen with your veteran superstars, especially when you’ve been playing in the fish leagues as long as Bennie.