I Still Believe Author Celebrates Christmas With Beloved Orca Family in France
Hazel McBride, the author of the popular marine mammal training memoir I Still Believe, celebrated her Yuletide at MarineLand France with her beloved orcas in the most festive way possible.
Oh Christmas, that time of the year when everyone is out shopping at the mall, waiting in line at the local Starbucks for their hands on some hot cocoa, looking up recipes to spice up that traditional holiday turkey, hanging out with friends and family from out-of-town, engagement rings, and of course, anything that has to do with StarWars since Disney has managed to make it a worthy 21st century Christmas tradition. However, for Scottish marine mammal trainer Hazel McBride, her recent holiday plans did not involve either crazy Christmas shopping sprees, nor spending Christmas in a galaxy far, far, away, but doing what she loved best-working with her beloved whales at MarineLand France in a very festive way.
For those who have read some of my other works, you might have known of Hazel from an interview I did with her back in March where she talked about her memoir I Still Believe. The book focused on her path to becoming a marine mammal trainer specializing in killer whale husbandry and care by beginning things out with her humble upbringing in her native Scotland by a single mother. Eight months later, she is back by sharing with the world how she and her colleagues at MarineLand in Antibes, France, include Inouk, Wikie, Moana, and Keijo in their holidays at work festivities and man, those whales tend to get the joy out of Christmas than most kids do.
Christmas, MarineLand France Style!
For those of you who may not know what it means for animals to have enrichment, environmental enrichment devices, or EEDs as they are often referred to as serve as an act of providing stimulating and challenging environment settings, toys, and activities for animals who reside in zoological facilities. The enrichment is considered to be very crucial to the well-being of the animals since it gives them their own right to have access to their own food and medicine throughout the day. In addition, it also enables animals to perform any behavior that they would normally display out in the wild. These behaviors, which include diving and exploring, keep them both physically and mentally fit at all times. Examples of such enrichment may include iced fish in veterinarian-approved pet toys, balls, barrels, disks, and if your name is Winter the Dolphin, floating beds.
The holiday-enrichment that the killer whale family at MarineLand France was given were iced fished that were shaped like Christmas gifts that were made from flavorless gelatin, frozen herring, and fish cakes. They also included little gift tags that featured each’s animal’s name and ribbons in the color that was the same as their regular bucket tags. For example, Inouk’s was green, Keijo’s purple, Moana’s was yellow, and Wikie’s was red. When it was time for the family to receive their gifts, Inouk and his oldest nephew Moana were the first to receive theirs. Hazel said that Moana was very happy to play around with his yummy gelatin while Inouk tried to get a taste of his nephew’s holiday snack. However, he did enjoy his own holiday gift too. After that, Wikie and her youngest son Keijo were next in line to get their own holiday “cakes”. While Wikie’s red ribbon did turn pink from being frozen for a period of time, the French orca matriarch did not seem to care because from the video Hazel posted on YouTube, she enjoyed her cake while Keijo focused on munching his down the hatch like a little kid. In the end, mother and son ended up “switching” presents with Keijo swimming off with his mother’s cake and it was hilarious to watch.
Aside from the frozen Christmas fish cakes, the whales also got ice molds that were in the shape of walnuts that was meant to be part of a snowman that was placed on tire. This tire would later be floated out into the killer whale habitat for the whales to play with. Like the cakes, it was also made of gelatin with a hint of frozen herring.
Holiday Tradition Completed
Marineland France’s animal training team is probably the most creative I have ever heard about when it comes to giving their animals a holiday tradition with their frozen fish cakes and ice mold snowmen. This is the team that made an ice-cake version of BB-8 for Keijo’s 6th birthday. This was because his energetic personality reminded the team of the little droid.
So anyway, adorable holiday traditions your team has created for the whales Hazel and I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with next for animal enrichment.
About the author
Zoo and Aquarium Professional, Educator, Cosplayer, Writer and B.A. in Psychology whose got a lot to share when it comes to animals, zoos, aquariums, conservation, and more.