FOR RICKY LAM KWOK-WAI, a senior marine mammal trainer at Ocean Park, taking care of dolphins and seals and playing with them are a daily routine. Over the years, he has developed a strong sense of attachment to the marine animals in his care. Let us take a look at a typical work day for Mr Lam. 8 am: Meet with other trainers and apprentices to discuss the day's schedule and brief them on all particulars. 'Even though our work follows the same routine every day, we sometimes have to adjust our schedule, for example, if one of the dolphins is sick or pregnant,' explains the 29-year-old trainer. 8.45 am: Dive to the bottom of the pools to clean up and observe the dolphins' movements. 'Dolphins are natural born swimmers and the way they swim often reflects their physical condition. It's important to always check their health,' Mr Lam says. 9 am: First meal of the day. According to the trainer, the amount of food for each dolphin, seal and sea lion is different. It is determined by animal nutritionists. A dolphin can live up to 40 years and normally reaches maturity at the age of seven. An adult dolphin can consume up to 15 kilograms of food a day. 9.30 am: Take the animals' temperature. Mr Lam and his colleagues take the temperature of every animal once a day, except when the animal is sick. There is a special team of staff responsible for maintaining water quality. The team records water temperatures every other hour. 9.30 am - 10.30 am: Play with the animals and also train them to perform. 'Dolphins are very sensitive, or even emotional, creatures. That's why we prefer not to subject them to daily drills or to cram them for shows. Otherwise they might get fed up and refuse to do anything,' he says. 10.30 am: Second meal. 'Tuna is always their favourite,' says Siu Chun-yat, Mr Lam's colleague. 'We often give them ice cubes as snacks because they love them. They also enjoy having their back scratched!' 11 am: Feed the sea lions. Seals and sea lions have to be separated because an adult male seal can be four times the size of a sea lion. And male seals are often bullies. 1.30 pm: Prepare the sea lions for the shows. Because the marine animals are highly wary of strangers, trainers have to be ready to deal with unexpected circumstances. 2.30 pm: Third meal. The animals always take a nap in the afternoon. 3.30 pm: Normally trainers will play with the animals in the afternoon as part of the training. 4 pm: Another show for the dolphins, seals and sea lions. 5 pm: Last meal of the day. 5.30 pm: The end of the day. 'Before we go home, we have to clean the bottom of the pools again and return all the equipment. More importantly, we have to record all details about the animals, like their body temperature, condition, appetite, behaviour and even how they get along with each other,' Mr Lam says. A team of specialists monitor the condition of the pools at night. To become a marine mammal trainer, you should at least be a Form Five graduate. University graduates majoring in biology or zoology are also welcome. You will first work as an apprentice and after 18 months you will be given a permanent contract. It normally takes five to six years to become a senior trainer. 'I like animals very much. Before I joined Ocean Park five years ago, I worked at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. You have to really like animals if you want to be a trainer. Dolphins, seals and sea lions are very intelligent and sensitive. You must treat them as human-beings,' Mr Lam said.