My inner 8-year-old squealed with glee at the thought of working with dolphins, seals and sea lions at the Brookfield Zoo. But I'm not 8 anymore. I haven't been for a while. Would the jaded adult I have become be as thrilled with these marine beasties?
That would be a yes.
The keepers and curator of the Marine Mammals exhibit dealt with my giddiness surprisingly well -- I'm guessing because they understand how lucky they are to work with these animals every day. Yes, the job involves hand-sorting 300-odd pounds of fish a day, cleaning seal poop from unlikely surfaces, and walking around in wet, fishy clothing all day, but everyone I talked to said they loved being with the animals -- pretty much all the time.
I got to follow lead keeper Jennifer as she dealt with the dolphins Noelani and Tatum, harbor seals Mango and Banda, and California sea lion Zuma. I was with her as she did her morning checks on the animals, looking them over for any injury, doing some training behavior, and making sure they were healthy and happy. That meant I got to pet the dolphins, seals and sea lions. Basically, I got them ...