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Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Volunteering

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
My niece Claire giving Shelby the harbor seal a hug during an pinniped encounter. Shelby is not often on the encounter schedule so meetings with her are special.  | Hugh Ryono

Up close and personal with a sea lion or seal.

Although Parker, the Aquarium’s 700 pound sea lion, is the star of the popular pinniped encounters he is not the only animal ambassador from the seal and sea lion exhibit. His understudies, Harpo the sea lion and Shelby the harbor seal are also ready to meet and greet aquarium guests.

The pinniped encounter at the Aquarium of the Pacific brings guests up close and personal to these impressive animals. And each animal involved in a pinniped encounter brings their own unique style and personality to the session.

The big guy Parker is quite impressive to be near. Having your picture taken next to this large, regal critter makes quite a keepsake for your social media page or living room picture frame.

On the other hand many guests enjoy meeting Parker’s smaller sea lion exhibit mate Harpo. With Harpo it’s all about the personality. Harpo loves to solicit kisses and stick his tongue out to give people random “raspberries”. He is also the most touchable of the sea lions. Harpo really seems to channel the spirit of his namesake. You can’t help but smile after an encounter with him.

A rare and unique animal encounter is with one of the Aquarium’s original pinnipeds. Shelby the harbor seal has been at the Aquarium of the Pacific since the day it opened in 1998. I had the pleasure of training her original animal encounter behaviors several years ago. My favorite is the hug-a-seal behavior which not only allows guests to put their arms around her but also allows our staff to do a thorough tactile inspection of her body. This came in handy during her pregnancies. The bad part of hugging a seal though is that you do have to kneel down. She is also wet so you’ll get wet during a hug. And she does drool like a hound dog.

No matter which animal you meet, the pinniped encounters are a fun way to learn more about seals and sea lions.

There are some restrictions such as age and foot wear requirement for the pinniped encounters. Check with the aquarium for more information.

Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
The in-laws of aquarium mammalogist Megan; Pam, Patrick and Ron, enjoying a rare and unique encounter with Shelby the harbor seal.  | Hugh Ryono
Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium mammalogist Megan's husband Patrick sharing a moment with Harpo the sea lion.  | Hugh Ryono
Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Even though he is the understudy to the star of the exhibit Parker, Harpo the sea lion does seem to enjoy showing off for guests during a pinniped encounter. Here mammalogist Megan leads an encounter with Harpo.  | Hugh Ryono
Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Marine mammal volunteer Heather enjoying a photo session with Parker. The charismatic sea lion Parker is the star of the pinniped encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  | Hugh Ryono

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