Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sea Lion Splash

Balancing, dancing and interacting with the audience, sea lions have made a splash at this year’s Big E.

Trainers host each show, putting these fabulous aquatic creatures through their paces. The sea lions perform in and out of the water, catching and retrieving objects, executing handstands and “singing,” which are all part of their naturally mischievous, comedic behavior.

The show draws quite a crowd, as music plays and children dance in the aisles awaiting the entertainment. Squalus, Inc. brought four sea lions to The Big E, (Minnie, Alicia, Sparky and Zoë), but only two perform at a time.

At 10:30 a.m. trainer and host Jessica opened the Sunday morning show bringing Sparky and Zoë onto the stage. Balancing on a stand, the two clapped their fins and waved hello to the audience while smiling and shaking hands with Jessica. Throughout the performance, the animals executed hand stands, caught rings, balanced balls on their noses and even shot basket balls into a hoop.

The Squalus, Inc. show is the only traveling sea lion act in the United States, and is geared around educating the audience on the habits and nature of these mammals. It was created when the company began caring for beached sea lions that were injured and unable to be put back into the wild. Zoë is an example of such creatures, as she was orphaned in California as a pup. Her mother died from pollution in the Pacific Ocean.

Due to the death of Sea Lions such as Zoë’s mother, Squalus, Inc. has integrated an anti-pollution/recycling campaign into their show. Zoë, now five years old, showed the audience what could happen when her natural curiosity would lead her to ingest part of a plastic bottle in the wild: she played dead, rolling over while holding the bottle in her mouth. After “coming back to life,” Zoë walked over and placed the bottle in a recycling bin reinforcing what Jessica had told the audience

The tropical setting complete with rocks, palm trees, waterfalls, foliage and two pools allows the audience to also see the underwater antics of these fascinating creatures.

As each show wraps up, audience members are provided with the opportunity to have a close sea lion encounter as well as a photo taken with one of the animals, like this one that appeared on the front page of Saturday’s Republican.

(Here's a link to the article on MassLive)

The show provides continuous entertainment for fairgoers at the north end of the Avenue of States. Showtimes are Monday through Friday, noon, 3:30, and 7:30 p.m. with an additional 10:30 a.m. show Saturday and Sunday.

Fun Sea Lion Facts:
---A sea lion is a sea mammal from the pinipedia family meaning “fin foot”
---They are amphibious, meaning they can live in and out of the water
---A sea lion can swim up to 24mph
---They can stay underwater for 10 – 15 minutes without coming up for air
---They can dive as far as 1,300 ft into the water
---Sea lions have course outer hairs called guard hairs that keep the animal warm

Differences between a sea lion and a seal:
---Sea Lions have ears
---Sea Lions have much larger Flippers than seals
---Sea Lions can rotate their hips which allows them to walk on land

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