Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For Jim Alexander--Army Sea lions.

Jim, didn't Wally Ross former Circus Vargas elephant trainer from the 70's train Dolphins for the Army, of which the book/movie Day of the Dolphins, with George C. Scott was written? I believe it was either Wally or Don McClennon who trained Col. Joe of Krone fame. Does anyone know which gentleman it was? They were both incredible trainers, Don in particular with horses, and Wally with movie/operant conditioned animals "bridged" the gap between that world and the circus . I had the honor of observing both of the great men in 1974-75 on Circus Vargas.

1 comment:

Jim A. said...

You are correct that Wally Ross was involved with the early NAVY marine mammal program. The Navy had a few marine mammals in a research program in California. The PhD. researchers could write thick reports but couldn't get the animals to work (Wally's words). Enter Wally and Morris Wintermantel, two guys who trained sea lions for parks. There best known work was with a dolphin named Tuffy but they also worked with sea lions and elephant seals. They had animals doing things researcher couldn't imagine.

I met Wally when he was the elephant boss on Vargas. I think he was from Springfield, MO, like Prof. Gibbs who was also on the show then. Nice man who was full of tips and stories. He probably had a hand most of the trained elephants that came out of the west coast. His rate was reported to be $100 per trick, 10 trick minimum. Two tricks would be play the harmonica and wave a hanky -- guaranteed crowd pleasers.