April 2, 2020
Commitment during a Critical Time – Part One
- as seen by -William Hana
It is not business as usual at WCS’s New York Aquarium when the world is facing a pandemic disease such as COVID-19. People in New York City are to remain home, observe self-quarantine, and stay a safe distance from each other. All five WCS parks are following recommendations by the city, and for now, our doors are closed to visitors. Yet, our commitment to our animals and our aquarium coworkers remain strong despite all that is going on around us.
Walking through the aquarium’s empty plaza, I can hear the unique barking sounds of our California sea lions. Senior trainer Jenn Rant and trainer Stephanie Graehling are working with two of our biggest male sea lions, Bruiser and Osborn, in the Aquatheater. Enthusiasm and cheerful spirits resonate on their faces while they watch the animals perform various behaviors.
“I’m taking advantage of the situation by providing extra enrichment and training to our animals,” Jenn excitedly tells me. “Working with these animals helps me feel normal, and the animals love it!”
On my way to Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, I am thinking there is no other place these animal trainers would rather be. I pass by Mike Tine from our operations staff. He is intently checking gauges and valve positions to keep our systems running.
Once inside Ocean Wonders, I spot a stretcher in the waters of the New York Bight exhibit where our sharks and other fish from the waters of New York live. I check to see if I can help. Senior keeper Andrea Reimold and keeper Kira Knotts are feeding sandbar sharks. Using tongs, the keepers carefully invite sharks into the stretcher for a piece of shrimp (above). One after another, sharks swim into the stretcher voluntarily to get their favorite food.
“We do this so that all sharks and other animals get their share of food, and we can look at them closely,” says Andrea.
It’s practically impossible to ensure that all of the animals get enough food in a large community exhibit teeming with many fast-moving fishes, but our Ocean Wonders staff have been training these animals and monitoring their diets to ensure a healthy collection. They appear to have everything under control, focusing on their tasks and having fun.
EDITOR’S NOTE: WCS animal and operations staff are essential during this time. We thank them for their continuing efforts. Be sure to read Part Two of Commitment during a Critical Time.