Thursday, January 15, 2015
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
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