Because I lived on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, I often fell asleep to the lull of the ocean waves and the sounds of the sea lions on the rocks below. So, when I entered into the world of Marineland—I encountered captive marine mammals—not just the wild ones with whom I was familiar. Captive wild animals are different from the wild animals who live in their natural environment. I have a few theories about this—but that is for another topic.
Marineland was one of the first marine parks to be established and sported a wide collection of specimens. It was the San Pedro fisherman who actually caught fish, sea turtles, and whales that were to be housed there.
Initially, Marineland of the Pacific was run by scientists (who were not the best at marketing and bringing in money). When I arrived, Hanna Barbera had taken over the facility and was attempting to turn it into an attraction.
The profit challenge remained because access to Marineland was tough as the road on the coast was continually shifting (because it was sliding into the Pacific) but I loved the location which was a blend and contrast between the wild and the captive.
Wild sea lions cavorted below the park and could be enjoyed as visitors strolled from one show or exhibit to the next. Pelicans lived in an exhibit and wild ones visited. At that time, the dolphin pool was a place to play and interact with the amazing animals—not to feed them as the current trend seems to be.
Relationships that rely on dispensing food can limit relationships with animals. Don’t get me wrong, food can be a good tool but an inter-specific bond needs to be forged by interest, mutual respect, and understanding. Good animal people build a solid foundation on those pillars.
During my day to day duties, if I was absorbed in my thoughts and rushing from one location to another, the dolphins’ accurate aim would send a ball sailing my way in attempts to get me to stop and play. As a manager, I was often behind the scenes and the inquisitive orcas and Pacific bottlenose dolphins would follow me or vocalize so that I would take a break during the busy day.
Although I was not yet a trainer, I befriended and pestered many of those marine animal trainers who worked there. I often sat for hours on my off time watching sessions or asking questions related to behavior, training, and showmanship.
This served me well because the dolphin trainers and killer whale trainers knew I was serious and encouraged me to get my degree in animal training and management. So, I began to research those opportunities. At the time there was only one college with such a course but the reputation was great and if you survived the experience you were considered “worth your salt” and actually had your pick of jobs.
Today the world has changed and there are many programs dedicated to the different types of animal jobs out there (which Animal Career Secrets will get into), but back then it was tradition to apprentice under the great animal trainers.
Okay, I hope you got a few things from this story. I won’t keep outlining what I have included in these stories but will highlight a couple of points I feel are important—until you read and ponder the material differently. Relationship development is important—with the animals and with the humans involved with them.
Animal careers are earned through hard work—going beyond the standard work hours and motivated from a deep passion. Animal career seekers do the work themselves. When someone has friend, family, or someone else call or contact instead of doing it themself it is a big red warning flag that works against the seeker.