When I visited SeaWorld Orlando today to say goodbye to the long-running Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island show, I also had the chance to say hello to some of the animals in the awesome critter cast. Click the slideshow accompanying this article to see some of the animals that I met before the show, as well as some of the people.
In addition to getting up close and personal with a sea lion, otter, and walrus, I also saw a training demonstration that gave me a peek into the process of transforming a sea lion into a star. As it does with all its animals, SeaWorld Orlando uses positive reinforcement to train the sea lions. They learn to touch and follow a target pole, which then allows the trainers to move on to complex behaviors like certain movements and even jumps. If you'd like to see some photos from the training session, go to this article. Want to see the full video of the training session, as well as a question and answer session? Go here.
I was able to get up close and personal with one of the sea lion stars to take part in an interaction that showed just how well trained they are. Afterward, I even got to shake his flipper. The animals are very closely bonded with their trainers, but they'll work with a stranger, too, as long as the trainer is also there. It was a real highlight of the day to be that close to a sea lion and do a direct interaction.
Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island closes after this weekend, but another sea lion show will follow in 2015. You still have a chance to see it live on August 9 or 10, but afterward it will be history, with an all-new riotous romp taking over next year.