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Aquarium Animals Support Recycling

Soccer Sharks

Curious Penguins

Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Urban Sea Turtle ID

Therapeutic Enrichment

Et tu, Brude?

Walking with Penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Feeding Frenzy

Extinct in the Wild

May of Grays

Enrichment Challenge! Part 3

The Force is Strong with this Otter

April Recap & the Return of the Killer Whales!

Enrichment Challenge! Part 2

Penguins are Habit-Forming

Enrichment Challenge!

Skim Hunting Osprey

Penguin Party!

Parenting and Predation

Aquarium Snapshots: Spring 2014

Musical Magpie

You Know You’ve Been an Animal Care Volunteer a Long Time When…

False Killer Whales!

One Smoothie, with a Cricket Boost!

Happy 17th Birthday, Charlie!

Simply Enriching

Humpbacks Here and Humpbacks There!

Positive Reinforcement: It’s Not Just Fish

Reflections of a Seal Pup

What Would You Like The Otter To Do Instead?

Breachers!

Early Birds Get the Worms

The Many Faces of Brook the Sea Otter

How Do Birds Do That?

A Killer Start to 2014…Again!

Which Otter is That?

Sniffing Around

Spending Christmas Day with the Critters

The Return of the Sperm Whale and the Killer Whales!

Different Strokes for Different Birds

Hugh’s Look Back at 2013

The Most Epic Week of Sightings…Ever!

Delivering Holiday Treats to the Animals

Guide to Urban Sea Turtle Watching

The Story of Heidi and Anderson

Whales AND Dolphins AND Sea Life!

Preparing for Holiday Treats!

Vanity, Thy Name is Otter

Meet an Aviculturist

A Pair of Masked Booby Birds and More!

Food Treats for Lorikeets!

Lorikeets Help Carve a Halloween Pumpkin

A Pinata for the Birds

Newsom the Penguin Explores the Guest Side of the Exhibit

The “Finger”-Painting Octopus

The “Finger”-Painting Octopus

Fins and Minkes: The Other Guys!

Introducing Dominique

March of the Penguin Chicks

Familiar Flukes

Target-Training a Shark

Floyd and Roxy Have a Chick

Lunge Feeding Frenzies!

Harpo: the Charismatic Raspberry-blowing Sea Lion

Tons of Blues and Other Marine Life Too!

The Aquarium at the Turn of the Century

Whale Watching from a Cruise Ship

Whales, Sunfish, and Sharks!

15 Years of Aquarium Memories

IT’S A BOY!

Farewell May Grays!

Welcome Back Charlie!

Cows, Calves and Breaching Whales!

Steller Sea Lion Getting “Thiggy” with California Sea Lions

One Whale, Two Whale, Gray Whale, Blue Whale! Killer Whales and Humpbacks too!

Critter Portraits

Orcas, Blues, Humpbacks and Baby Grays!

Otter Wish List

More Blue Whales!

iPad-Playing Penguins

Our First Blue Whale and More!

The Furball Through The Years

The February of Fins

Love is in the Air for Gray Whales Too!

Adventures in Otter Space

Our First Few Weeks on the Water of 2013

Hiding From Killer Whales

The Gray Beginnings

Happy Holidays From The Otters

A Snowman for the Otters

From Blues to Grays to Blues and Fins!

Penguin Love Triangle

From Blues to Grays

Why I Love the Furball

The Aquarium Has a Fan at JPL

Where Have the Whales Been?

Strolling Down the River with a Sea Turtle

Come See Betty the Sea Otter

Otter Life Lessons

Dominique's avatar

Animal Updates | Birds | Enrichment

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dominique

Aquarium Animals Support Recycling
Penguins, out for a walk during the Summer of Wonder, look at Aquarium visitors.  | Dominique Richardson
My niece Claire giving Shelby the harbor seal a hug during an pinniped encounter. Shelby is not often on the encounter schedule so meetings with her are special.  | Hugh Ryono
A green sea turtle surfaces in the San Gabriel River clearly showing the marks on its head that I'm using for identifying individual animals.  | Hugh Ryono
A lorikeet recovering behind the scenes enjoys an enrichment device to help in her recovery.  | Dominique Richardson
The marvelous cow/calf pair of Bryde's whales  | Alisa Schulman-Janiger
Newsom checks out the trout in the Aquarium's new Steelhead exhibit.
A cownose ray feeds from an enrichment device in Shark Lagoon.  | Dominique Richardson
Female Guam Micronesian Kingfisher at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  | Hugh Ryono
One of the many breaching gray whales we had this record breaking season!  | Erik Combs
Ian the Magpie plays with a rubber enrichment toy made for the enrichment challenge.  | Sara Nieters
Brook on her 17th Birthday. May 20, 2014  | Hugh Ryono
Biggs Killer Whale sighting  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Cheeks the lorikeet playing with a rubber enrichment toy made for an enrichment challenge.  | Dominique Richardson
Hanging out with the wee waddling wayfarers known as Magellanic Penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Kevin the Aracari loves enrichment, but usually only when it involves something for him to snack on. So, we made him a food enrichment toy—made to look mildly like a flower—using a green, recycled and sterilized soda bottle with holes cut in it and re-purposed red beads. In the bottom of the bottle we placed meal worms, a tasty treat and great motivator for Kevin.

Since the bottle was clear, Kevin could see the worms straight away and tried to nibble at them through the bottom of the bottle. He quickly realized he there was something between him and his snack, but tried again a several more times just to be sure.

Next, he tried putting his head through a hole, but it wasn’t at the right angle for his long beak to reach down to the worms. He hopped from perch to perch around the bottle eyeing it from every angle. He tried another hole, but that was the wrong angle too. He stared at the bottle and turned his head, thinking hard. He turned his head so far in deep though I thought he might fall off his perch. Frustrated, he flew away.

We took pity on Kevin, since enrichment is supposed to be fun, and moved the bottle so that the right hole was the easiest one for him to reach, right next to his perch. However, we might have made it too easy because he came back over and immediately put his beak in the hole and quickly gobbled down all the worms as though he’d knew what to do the whole time…. almost as though he’d outsmarted us into doing all the work for him.

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Dominique's avatar

Animal Updates | Fish | Sharks | Enrichment

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dominique

Soccer Sharks
Penguins, out for a walk during the Summer of Wonder, look at Aquarium visitors.  | Dominique Richardson
My niece Claire giving Shelby the harbor seal a hug during an pinniped encounter. Shelby is not often on the encounter schedule so meetings with her are special.  | Hugh Ryono
A green sea turtle surfaces in the San Gabriel River clearly showing the marks on its head that I'm using for identifying individual animals.  | Hugh Ryono
A lorikeet recovering behind the scenes enjoys an enrichment device to help in her recovery.  | Dominique Richardson
The marvelous cow/calf pair of Bryde's whales  | Alisa Schulman-Janiger
Newsom checks out the trout in the Aquarium's new Steelhead exhibit.
A cownose ray feeds from an enrichment device in Shark Lagoon.  | Dominique Richardson
Female Guam Micronesian Kingfisher at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  | Hugh Ryono
One of the many breaching gray whales we had this record breaking season!  | Erik Combs
Ian the Magpie plays with a rubber enrichment toy made for the enrichment challenge.  | Sara Nieters
Brook on her 17th Birthday. May 20, 2014  | Hugh Ryono
Biggs Killer Whale sighting  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Cheeks the lorikeet playing with a rubber enrichment toy made for an enrichment challenge.  | Dominique Richardson
Hanging out with the wee waddling wayfarers known as Magellanic Penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

For a fun food enrichment for our behind-the-scenes bamboo sharks I used a dog toy in the shape of a hollowed out soccer ball. I stuffed the soccer ball shell with restaurant quality shrimp, squid, clam and sardines (the sharks’ favorites) and dropped it in their exhibit. And they were off! Bumping the ball with their noses, batting it with their tails! As the sharks hit the ball, bits of food popped out offering up a reward. The sharks swam about batting the “soccer ball” around, jostling tasty morsels loose, to make it to the goal of eating all the food!

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Dominique's avatar

Animal Updates | Penguins | Enrichment

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dominique

Curious Penguins
Penguins, out for a walk during the Summer of Wonder, look at Aquarium visitors.  | Dominique Richardson
My niece Claire giving Shelby the harbor seal a hug during an pinniped encounter. Shelby is not often on the encounter schedule so meetings with her are special.  | Hugh Ryono
A green sea turtle surfaces in the San Gabriel River clearly showing the marks on its head that I'm using for identifying individual animals.  | Hugh Ryono
A lorikeet recovering behind the scenes enjoys an enrichment device to help in her recovery.  | Dominique Richardson
The marvelous cow/calf pair of Bryde's whales  | Alisa Schulman-Janiger
Newsom checks out the trout in the Aquarium's new Steelhead exhibit.
A cownose ray feeds from an enrichment device in Shark Lagoon.  | Dominique Richardson
Female Guam Micronesian Kingfisher at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  | Hugh Ryono
One of the many breaching gray whales we had this record breaking season!  | Erik Combs
Ian the Magpie plays with a rubber enrichment toy made for the enrichment challenge.  | Sara Nieters
Brook on her 17th Birthday. May 20, 2014  | Hugh Ryono
Biggs Killer Whale sighting  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Cheeks the lorikeet playing with a rubber enrichment toy made for an enrichment challenge.  | Dominique Richardson
Hanging out with the wee waddling wayfarers known as Magellanic Penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

For our Summer of Wonder, several of our young penguins have been (exploring the Aquarium) meeting lots of other curious residents. It’s been great enrichment (and great fun) for the penguins as well as for the animals they get to meet. The penguins and otters have gawked at each other. The sea lions and penguins have bumped noses and mimicked each other through their acrylic barrier. But there is one particularly inquisitive animal the penguins have met that may be even more curious than the penguins: us! Although the penguins see their caretakers every day, sometimes new people can be quite intriguing. During their walks in June the penguins got up close and personal with many people, providing a great deal of enrichment as well as stimulating curiosity and wonder, both for themselves and for us.

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Hugh's avatar

Animal Updates | Mammals | Volunteering

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hugh

Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Penguins, out for a walk during the Summer of Wonder, look at Aquarium visitors.  | Dominique Richardson
My niece Claire giving Shelby the harbor seal a hug during an pinniped encounter. Shelby is not often on the encounter schedule so meetings with her are special.  | Hugh Ryono
A green sea turtle surfaces in the San Gabriel River clearly showing the marks on its head that I'm using for identifying individual animals.  | Hugh Ryono
A lorikeet recovering behind the scenes enjoys an enrichment device to help in her recovery.  | Dominique Richardson
The marvelous cow/calf pair of Bryde's whales  | Alisa Schulman-Janiger
Newsom checks out the trout in the Aquarium's new Steelhead exhibit.
A cownose ray feeds from an enrichment device in Shark Lagoon.  | Dominique Richardson
Female Guam Micronesian Kingfisher at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  | Hugh Ryono
One of the many breaching gray whales we had this record breaking season!  | Erik Combs
Ian the Magpie plays with a rubber enrichment toy made for the enrichment challenge.  | Sara Nieters
Brook on her 17th Birthday. May 20, 2014  | Hugh Ryono
Biggs Killer Whale sighting  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Cheeks the lorikeet playing with a rubber enrichment toy made for an enrichment challenge.  | Dominique Richardson
Hanging out with the wee waddling wayfarers known as Magellanic Penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Up close and personal with a sea lion or seal.

Although Parker, the Aquarium’s 700 pound sea lion, is the star of the popular pinniped encounters he is not the only animal ambassador from the seal and sea lion exhibit. His understudies, Harpo the sea lion and Shelby the harbor seal are also ready to meet and greet aquarium guests.

The pinniped encounter at the Aquarium of the Pacific brings guests up close and personal to these impressive animals. And each animal involved in a pinniped encounter brings their own unique style and personality to the session.

The big guy Parker is quite impressive to be near. Having your picture taken next to this large, regal critter makes quite a keepsake for your social media page or living room picture frame.

On the other hand many guests enjoy meeting Parker’s smaller sea lion exhibit mate Harpo. With Harpo it’s all about the personality. Harpo loves to solicit kisses and stick his tongue out to give people random “raspberries”. He is also the most touchable of the sea lions. Harpo really seems to channel the spirit of his namesake. You can’t help but smile after an encounter with him.

A rare and unique animal encounter is with one of the Aquarium’s original pinnipeds. Shelby the harbor seal has been at the Aquarium of the Pacific since the day it opened in 1998. I had the pleasure of training her original animal encounter behaviors several years ago. My favorite is the hug-a-seal behavior which not only allows guests to put their arms around her but also allows our staff to do a thorough tactile inspection of her body. This came in handy during her pregnancies. The bad part of hugging a seal though is that you do have to kneel down. She is also wet so you’ll get wet during a hug. And she does drool like a hound dog.

No matter which animal you meet, the pinniped encounters are a fun way to learn more about seals and sea lions.

There are some restrictions such as age and foot wear requirement for the pinniped encounters. Check with the aquarium for more information.

Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
The in-laws of aquarium mammalogist Megan; Pam, Patrick and Ron, enjoying a rare and unique encounter with Shelby the harbor seal.  | Hugh Ryono
Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium mammalogist Megan's husband Patrick sharing a moment with Harpo the sea lion.  | Hugh Ryono
Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Even though he is the understudy to the star of the exhibit Parker, Harpo the sea lion does seem to enjoy showing off for guests during a pinniped encounter. Here mammalogist Megan leads an encounter with Harpo.  | Hugh Ryono
Pinniped Encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Marine mammal volunteer Heather enjoying a photo session with Parker. The charismatic sea lion Parker is the star of the pinniped encounters at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  | Hugh Ryono

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Hugh's avatar

Animal Updates | Turtles | Conservation | Volunteering

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Hugh

Urban Sea Turtle ID
Penguins, out for a walk during the Summer of Wonder, look at Aquarium visitors.  | Dominique Richardson
My niece Claire giving Shelby the harbor seal a hug during an pinniped encounter. Shelby is not often on the encounter schedule so meetings with her are special.  | Hugh Ryono
A green sea turtle surfaces in the San Gabriel River clearly showing the marks on its head that I'm using for identifying individual animals.  | Hugh Ryono
A lorikeet recovering behind the scenes enjoys an enrichment device to help in her recovery.  | Dominique Richardson
The marvelous cow/calf pair of Bryde's whales  | Alisa Schulman-Janiger
Newsom checks out the trout in the Aquarium's new Steelhead exhibit.
A cownose ray feeds from an enrichment device in Shark Lagoon.  | Dominique Richardson
Female Guam Micronesian Kingfisher at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  | Hugh Ryono
One of the many breaching gray whales we had this record breaking season!  | Erik Combs
Ian the Magpie plays with a rubber enrichment toy made for the enrichment challenge.  | Sara Nieters
Brook on her 17th Birthday. May 20, 2014  | Hugh Ryono
Biggs Killer Whale sighting  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Cheeks the lorikeet playing with a rubber enrichment toy made for an enrichment challenge.  | Dominique Richardson
Hanging out with the wee waddling wayfarers known as Magellanic Penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Photo-Identifying the Green Sea Turtles in the San Gabriel River

Since 2008 I’ve been photographing the urban green sea turtles in the San Gabriel River supplanting the field notes taken by my wife Pam. The portion of the river which runs between Orange County and Long Beach has the northern most colony of green sea turtles in the world. This colony was little known until recently. It is one of Nature’s best kept secrets in Southern California. Our field observation is part of a larger sea turtle field research effort that is being coordinated by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Aquarium of the Pacific. With six years of images of surfacing sea turtles on file we’ve added a new phase of our part the project, going through the photos and trying to identify individual turtles.

This photo ID effort has just recently started and it could be months before we start seeing consistent results. At present we are doing it the old fashion way by eye-balling individual images and trying to match them. We are looking into software programs that can help in this effort but for now it’s the old Mark One eyeball that’s currently being used. The only high tech device that we’re using is an iPad and an app that allows images to be brought up side by side.

What we are initially using as identifying marks on the turtles are the scute patterns on their head. These marks have been used as identifying marks by researchers in other parts of the world. I went through years of images and picked out categories of potential turtles ID angles. Because of how I anticipated the swimming behaviors of the turtles and the currents in the river, the most numerous and best angled views were of the sea turtle’s right side. Other angles included the front, left side, back and overall shell view of the turtles.

When I started this photo ID effort a few weeks ago I wasn’t expecting any immediate results. However when I serendipitously picked a random image of a turtle I had recently photographed I discovered that I had photographed this same turtle a year prior. Talk about beginner’s luck!

Stay tuned as we attempt to unlock more secrets of the urban sea turtles of the San Gabriel River.

Urban Sea Turtle ID
The same green sea turtle photographed in the San Gabriel River in March of 2013 and in March of 2014.  | Hugh Ryono

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All blogs and comments represent the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of the Aquarium.

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