Our first two days was all orientation information, watching all of the park’s shows, sitting in on a few lectures and learning a bunch of information and hoping we’d remember it. There are several areas around the park that the interns are working out. (there are about 27 of us) My area is called HOT, which stands for Hawaiian Ocean Theatre. This is where most of the shows around the park take place. We have an Oli Oli show, which is a Japanese dolphin show, a Sea Lion show, an 80′s show, and a day show that includes the dolphins, sea lions, and penguins. We also are in charge of the monk seals and have a keeper talk on them once a day. During orientation I got to see and pet my first sea turtle! The one I pet just happened to be a 10 month old baby, featured in the picture. Also on orientation we got to pet our first dolphin! It was a great two days getting to know each other and learning all about the park and the animals.
So after orientation we went right into our actual internship. We showed up at 8am ready to start working and learning. There are 6 interns in my area and the first few days was pretty much just watching and trying to take in a whole bunch of information about how the day works. There are a ton of animal names to learn and duties to do. At first, most of it just seemed like a whole lot of cleaning. As interns, we have to learn how to run sound and narrate the shows. We also have to learn how to set the stages, pack food for the shows, and record respiration’s for the dolphins. This means that we go up where they are and watch a dolphin for 5 minutes, counting each time they take a breath. If they breath less than 4 times or more than 20 that usually means something isn’t normal and we have to tell a trainer.
I feel like this is going to be a very hard and exhausting internship, but I know it’ll be worth it in the end. It’s definitely different from anything I’ve ever done before animal wise. I will learn a lot about training and husbandry though so that’s good. We get to watch the training sessions with the animals and trainers. I feel like I just have to push through a little bit and then it’ll be great. We just need to learn a lot more and get into the groove of things and that’s when the fun part comes in.
The challenging part for this first week is just learning all the animals and trying to find ways to tell them all apart. And remembering the order of what we do all day. What to clean when and what to pack when and things like that. It’s also challenging to feel so inexperienced compared to others. I mean, I know a lot about husbandry and training, but not a lot when it comes to marine mammals. But I’m learning fast and it’ll be a great skill to have after I graduate.
I’ve learned a lot about cleaning and scrubbing. I learned that there are HUGE spiders in Hawaii and also that penguins are very moody and picky about who they like. It has taken some trainers a year to warm up to certain ones. I also learned to put sunscreen on my ears. But on a more serious note, I’ve learned that no matter how much you think you know about training or animals, there is always more you can learn. For example, I learned that during a show, just because a dolphin does a super cool flip in the air, he shouldn’t get anymore fish than he does when he does basic commands like sitting still or waving hello. If you were to give a ton of fish for really cool tricks, they would start to learn that only those certain tricks are the ones worth doing and would stop doing the basic ones, that might actually be more important.
I definitely will be able to apply this to my career. Watching the training sessions and just taking in little keeper notes and thoughts is definitely a big help. I also can already tell that marine mammals aren’t what I want to get into after I graduate. I mean, they are great animals, but just from doing this one week, I know for sure now that elephants are my one and only passion. It’s crazy how much I miss them. There are elephants here at the Honolulu Zoo and I really want to go see them on one of my next off days. All in all though, tiring, but good first week. I’m sure it’ll get better once I learn what I’m actually doing and how things are done.