The marine mammal trainers work with the resident California sea lions and harbor and Northern fur seals several times a day. During training sessions, the animals learn skills that can help assist with their medical care (like “open wide” for tooth brushing) or engage the animals with fun new activities (like swimming together). But there’s another way that they interact with them—play! Kathy Streeter, curator of marine mammals at the Aquarium, explains in a new video by Great Big Story.

I think that play behavior for children, for adults, and for animals is all extremely valuable in the same regards. It just expands your brain.
- Kathy Streeter

The Seal Whisperers and the Seals who Love Them

Behind the Scenes of the Seal Whisperer

The marine mammal trainers at the Aquarium give the seals and sea lions the choice of whether to participate, and the animals can also choose what they want to do. You might be interested to know that this video was meant to focus on one of our rescued sea lions, Zoe, who has figured out ways to signal to the trainers that she wants particular toys or games, or that she doesn’t want to do something or wants more of something else. In this case, she gave a clear signal that she wanted nothing to do with the photo shoot! She just wanted to stare at the videographer. So since Zoe chose not to participate, the video took a different—and still fascinating—direction.