PITTSBURGH (WTAJ) — Every day around noon at the Pittsburgh Zoo, the staff prepares to do a round of feeding for the animals. Over at the California Sea Lion exhibit, you’ll be able to hear them barking, letting the staff know, they’re hungry.

So what’s on the menu?

“Mostly seafood as you can imagine we get sardines, anchovies, capelin, herring and squid,” Henry Kacperzyk, curator of Kids Kingdom at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, said.

Kacperzyk has been working at the zoo for over 40 years.

“It is my dream job. You know, growing up in the city, I wanted to work with animals.”

He said the Pittsburgh Zoo is truly one of a kind and one of the better zoos in the country.

“There’s been a number of things that show us in the top ten, which is pretty cool, and people who live in close proximity don’t have to make a long drive to get here,” Kacperzyk said.

During the summer months, Kacperzyk said they have a number of sea lion demos, and once you meet their California Sea Lions, you will fall in love.

“A lot of people look at them and think you’re doing tricks,” he said. “You do tricks with your dogs you know, but we’re training behaviors, so we’ll work with the animals we do fun behaviors. You know, maybe throw a frisbee and retrieve things… but we also do things like train them for blood draws, train them for ultrasound. Any kind of medical thing that comes up.”

Morgan grabs a selfie with Seahawk the sea lions

They train these animals in a variety of ways.

“We use our voice verbal commands,” Kacperzyk said. “We have hand signals, and we will also do what we call ‘tacticals.’ Now animals as they get older can lose their hearing… I wear hearing aids, so that’s where maybe using a visual.”

Kacperzyk said in captivity, sea lions can live 31-33 years, which is much longer than in the wild because they can go blind as well as lose their hearing.

“So that’s where ‘tacticals’ come in,” he said. “We’ve learned that there are three ways of maybe getting the same behavior. Looking at Maggie, our oldest female, she probably knows about 170 different behaviors.”

The sea lions also have an artistic streak.

“We taught them to paint as a way of relaxing, and they get rewarded for it and they do quite a good job. Hawk actually loves painting and our goats actually paint as well.”

Kacperzyk has a deep appreciation for their animals and wants to help educate the public about the importance of protecting these species.

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“People don’t realize you’re helping conservation in the wild, and you’re getting an appreciation and learning about the animals that we have here in captivity. We hope to make well-rounded individuals that come to the zoo and appreciate these animals and support legislation and different programs that allow these animals to continue to exist in the wild.”