Resident Animal Updates
In the spirit of the new year, we are focusing on teaching the resident animals at Clearwater Marine Aquarium new behaviors! The rescued dolphins are taught new behaviors by animal care specialists to ensure their mental stimulation on a day-to-day basis.
Nicholas is in the process of learning a new behavior called “Beach on Mat.” This behavior involves Nick locating the mat in his habitat and then propelling himself out of the water to land and lay stationary on the mat. The purpose of this concept is to mentally stimulate Nick and to provide him with an opportunity for physical exercise. The animal care specialists practice cognitive stimulation with Nicholas and the other rescued dolphins to encourage natural behaviors and monitor their cognitive functions on a regular basis.
Winter & Hope
Winter is also learning a fun cognitive concept called “You Choose.” For this activity, Winter is given two reinforcement options to choose from, and she has the ability to pick the reinforcement that she wants to receive. Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood a behavior is repeated, therefore it is essential that our resident animals are receptive to the reinforcement items we provide them with for behavior learning. Check out the video to see which reinforcement item Winter chose!
Exercise is another key part of the day-to-day routine for each animal to ensure they are burning off the necessary calories to maintain a healthy weight and cardiovascular system. Hope is currently learning a new exercise called “Back Dive.” For this high energy behavior, the animal care specialists utilize a target pole to communicate to Hope the position and location of where she should exit & enter the water.
Keeping the habitats clean is an important part of maintaining a healthy and hygienic environment here at the aquarium! Boomer is currently learning a new husbandry behavior called “Station.” For this behavior, Boomer locates the preselected station in his habitat, places both front paws on it, and remains on that station until the animal care specialist asks him to come off. This is almost like Boomer finding his assigned seat in school! It’s important for the otters to learn this behavior so the animal care team can manage habitat cleanliness.
Matthew is learning a husbandry behavior in which he gates (moves) into a separate area of his habitat. This important behavior, also know as medical management behavior, allows the care specialists to separate him from the rest of the pelicans for vet exams. In this smaller area, the vet team can view Matthew and perform daily physical exams or sample collections on him to monitor his health.
Enrichment with different objects is a great source of stimulus for the resident animals as they learn about their environment. Snorkel, our only resident loggerhead, is spending time interacting with her new sinking seaweed enrichment. Snorkel is completely blind, so incorporating different enrichment into her environment allows her to discover new things through tactile interaction. All of the sea turtle residents, including Harold “Mavis,” are getting to enjoy new enrichment daily, as well as learning new husbandry behaviors to keep them healthy and mentally stimulated.