Thursday, February 11, 2010
Get ready to meet Shelby the Harbor Seal…in person!
In one of my blogs last year I’ve wrote about training Shelby the Harbor seal to get use to having different people around her and touching her. A husbandry behavior that I tongue in cheek called “hug-a-seal”. I originally trained this behavior to make it easier to physically check over the seal during vet staff visits.
Well Shelby’s gotten so good with the behavior that I’ve been recently tasked to train her to participate in animal encounter sessions. In these encounters Aquarium guests get a chance to meet one of our pinnipeds up close and personal. I don’t think it will be too difficult because Shelby really seems to like being around people, especially if they have some tasty herring to give her.
To get her ready to become an animal ambassador, I have been working with her each Saturday in the holding area of the pinniped exhibit that is used for encounters with guests. One of the first training steps is to get her use to being around different people and not just the husbandry folks that’s she is used to being with. To this end I’ve started inviting different staff members from all areas of the Aquarium to participate in training sessions with her. One of the first was staffers Tricia from our communications department last Saturday. Even though they’ve never met before Shelby did pretty well and even allowed Tricia to give her a pat on the back. This training allows the seal to get used to having different people walk and talk around her. Of course my ultimate goal is to have Aquarium of the Pacific guests be able to have their picture taken next to Shelby, hopefully by this Summer. Stay tuned.
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