Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dolphin Trainer anyone?

Hi Sea Fans!

I'm sure many of you have dreamt of swimming with dolphins or even just touching them.  Well, imagine working with them EVERY DAY!!  The lady I'm interviewing today, Gabby Harris, gets to do this.  Check it out:

What is your job?
I am the Curator of mammals and birds at uShaka Sea World.

What did you study/do to get this kind of work?
I learned a lot of the ins and outs of the job on the job. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree that includes psychology and Speech and Drama – these two subjects stood me in good stead when I applied for my job here.

What do you do in a normal day?
Manage staff that work in this department. Train and present dolphins. Lots of cleaning and paper work. Husbandry (caring for the animals) around the animals.

What is the most interesting thing you've come across/experienced in your job?
The first time I saw a dolphin’s belly button I was amazed that these animals are individuals. Seeing a dolphin being born is an incredible experience – with one of the animals my children watched a dolphin birth with me which was wonderful. Releasing an elephant seal after we rehabilitated her was incredible. Holding a penguin chick in your hands. So many wonderful times.

What is a not-so-nice thing about your job?
We love these animals like our family members. If they become compromised (if they get sick or hurt), we worry about them like we do our children. There is also lots of cleaning!

What do you love about your job?
Being friends with the animals – this is an incredible privilege, and it is amazing to bond with them. Love swimming with the dolphins. Love sharing conservation messages with people. Seeing someone’s attitude to the ocean change because they have met an animal is really heartening.

What would you say/recommend to kids who want to do what you do?
Be physically fit. If you want to make a career of this, you need to have good swimming skills and be energetic and strong. It is a good idea to study after school. Perhaps study close to a facility like uShaka Sea world and volunteer on your weekends so you get the lay of the land and a foot in the door. It is not a glamour job, so you need to be prepared to slog hard and get your hands dirty. Learn about the ocean. Become familiar with organisations in this industry, such as the Animal Behaviour Management Alliance (ABMA), the Animal Keepers Association of Africa (AKAA) and the International Association for Marine Animal Trainers (IMATA). Go see them on line.

Anything else?
Love the ocean…

Thanks to Gabby for the insider peak into a trainer's life, I'm sure she'se inspired lots of us to work harder.

Have a great week Sea Fans!
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  1. How much do they earn? Perhaps a salary range would be insightful :)

    1. I'd love to give you an idea of what they earn, but it depends on which country you live in and which facility you work for. Try contacting an aquarium near you and asking them what the salary range is, they should be willing to help you out.