Andrew Egyud, Animal Trainer, Wildlife Conservation Society Local 1501
I’ve been working with animals for about 10 years. I came to the New York Aquarium as an Animal Trainer a year ago.
I’ve always liked animals. Growing up I did not know what I wanted to do for a living. As a teen I watched a show on Animal Planet, the Croc Hunter Diaries with the late Steve Irwin. I admired all the work, education and passion he had. He inspired me.
I went to college and studied biology. Being a Zoo Keeper is not viewed as a real job by most people.
In the summer of my freshman year, I got a job at Busch Gardens in Virginia, where I am from. I fell in love immediately! I was determined to become the best animal care specialist I can be.
Over the years, I’ve worked with gray wolves, hawks, and beluga whales at Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. But of all the animals, I really get sea lions: I can relate to them. I’m sort of this goofy, laid-back guy and that reflects a sea lion’s personality exactly. They are laid back and sleep a lot. I’d do same if I could.
At the International Marine Trainers Association website, I saw this job opening. In this field, you move where the work is.
Living in New York City has always been my dream. New York City is in every movie you’ve ever seen. There is so much history and culture here, it’s amazing. Landing this job is the chance of a lifetime.
We focus on the shows. I work with show animals, and our aim is to entertain and educate. We train the animals in a mix of high energy behavior and information for audiences that drives home our message of conservation and education. We do four shows a day and in warmer months it’s a packed house every show.
Seals and sea lions are different—a seal has holes for ears and a sea lion has little Shrek ears. I work with five California sea lions that are 2 to 16 years old and weigh between 400 to 600 pounds each. We feed them each about 40 pounds of fish a day.
Sea lions are very intelligent, social animals. Like people, each individual sea lion has its strengths and weakness—some are better at jumps and flips, others are better at cognitive behavior and games.
The key to becoming an animal trainer is to develop a relationship with the animal based on trust and positive experiences.
Every day I realize I have my dream job: I see a 600-pound sea lion by my side who is ready to go to work — and so am I.