Home > Aquarium Blog > Who Knew You Could Cuddle a Shark?

Who Knew You Could Cuddle a Shark?

Hugh's avatar

Animal Updates | Fish | Sharks | Volunteering

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hugh

Who Knew You Could Cuddle a Shark?
Nicky and Fern. Senior Aquarist Nicky trained Fern the Zebra Shark using positive reinforcement.

Shark Training with Senior Aquarist Nicky and Fern the Zebra Shark

To a lot of people, being in the water with a large healthy shark conjures up the sounds of the JAWS theme in their minds. “Duh Duh, Duh Duh.” However if you’re in the water with Aquarium of the Pacific Senior Aquarist Nicky and Fern the Zebra Shark it’s more likely to bring up the theme from TOY STORY. “You got a friend in me.”

Fern’s training has come a long way since the day Nicky decided to use positive reinforcement to train the large shark to participate in her own health care as a way to reduce the stress of medical examinations. Just like with our sea lions it all began with simple target training with a target pole and food as reinforcement. To read about Fern’s early training click here.

Today it has progressed to the point where Nicky can be in the water with the free swimming shark and perform health exam procedures such as girth measurements and tactile examinations. Nicky can cradle Fern in her arms during these exams and turn her over. When turned over Fern then voluntarily enters a sleep-like state of “tonic immobility”. This allows for a thorough examination with reduced stress for the shark. Who knew you could cuddle a shark?

Check out the video of one of Fern’s training sessions. Aquarium of the Pacific Intern Mackenzie helped shoot the underwater scenes in the video

Who Knew You Could Cuddle a Shark?
Fern is a large shark that was trained to participate in her own health care.
Who Knew You Could Cuddle a Shark?
Being trained in in-water tactile behaviors helps reduce the stress on the shark during health examinations. Here Fern is being turned over after which she will enter a state of tonic immobility.
Who Knew You Could Cuddle a Shark?
Fern calmly allows herself to be held by staff.

<< Back

Your Comments

Have Something to Say? Leave a Comment!

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

<< Back