Magazine article Ebony

Animal Care Specialist: Indya Watts

Magazine article Ebony

Animal Care Specialist: Indya Watts

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Indya Watts gets paid to "swim with the fishes," or the mammals, to be more exact. But this 30-year-old Sister isn't with the mob. She's a dolphin trainer at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, where she regularly dons a wetsuit and gets into 40-degree water with dolphins and whales. She feeds them, cleans their 31-foot-deep pool and showcases their talents to the children and other visitors to the oceanarium area of the world-renowned aquarium. She also works with the sea lions, penguins and sea otters.

"The whales always want their tongues scratched," says the short-haired Watts, who chopped her locks because long hair and saltwater swims just don't mix. "They're pretty playful." She feeds them every day out of her bare hands and teaches them to play "fetch" with a hot pink Frisbee, or how to jump out of the water on cue. However, she cautions, it's never a good idea to get close to a sea mammal if you're not a trained professional. Beluga whales are more than 3,000 pounds, and the sea lions weigh in at 1,000.

"We build a trust relationship," she explains.

It isn't easy. The water is frigid, you must be an excellent swimmer and you should be scuba-certified before getting into a pool with giant sea creatures. …

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