Playing fetch with sea lions at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC (video)

I had the joy of discovering this week that the sea lions at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC like to play fetch with the zoo visitors.

(Note: About 3:25 into the video, my sea lion friend disappears for a sec, but he’s back in like 30 seconds. And sorry about the lack of sound, but the zoo had music playing in the background and YT wasn’t happy with that. Pretty much the entire video is me saying “good boy!”)

Here’s the video I shot of my visit, with a much longer explanation below.

I’ve been going to this zoo for thirty years, and never realized this until now. The zoo is great, if you ever go to DC — definitely one of the best in the US. And it has this neat underground viewing area, a bit hidden, where you can watch the seals swimming underwater from behind a huge plexiglass. Until this week, I thought the sea lions simply swam by quickly and that was that. Well, apparently, if you get the right sea lion, he likes to play virtual fetch with a stick, just like a dog! I discovered this yesterday afternoon, and spent nearly two hours playing with this one sea lion. I decided to go back today to try to shoot some video of our play time, and that’s what you’re watching here. It was one of the most amazing zoo, and animal, experiences of my life.

We first saw the sea lion yesterday when one of the zoo visitors was running his finger along the plexiglass, and the sea lion was following it and then doing flips when the man swirled his finger. That was pretty cool, all by itself. But after a while, the sea lion stopped following our fingers, and instead kept, seemingly, pointing at a stick on the ground on our side of the plexiglass. We thought the sea lion thought the stick was a treat — and that he was expecting some kind of reward for twirling in the water for us. After a while, we picked up the stick and showed it to him, and the sea lion followed the hand with the stick, so that’s definitely what he wanted. But the sea lion didn’t think the stick was a treat, he thought it was a toy — and kept jabbing his nose at it, like he wanted us to do something with it. I don’t know what possessed us, but somehow someone got the idea to throw the stick, and what do you know, the sea lion chased it and then did a somersault every time he got to the stick. (Also amazing, it was really dark in there by closing time, and the seal still found the stick every time.)

So, apparently, the sea lion wanted to play fetch and, amazingly, somehow communicated that to us. This five-minute video is me going back to the zoo today to have a bit more playtime with that one sea lion. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. JOHN

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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