Training and Enrichment Abstracts
Practical Improving the Lives
of 'touch tank' Elasmobranchs Through Enrichment and Training
The Phoenix Zoo
The goal of a behavioral enrichment program for aquatic species is the same as that of a terrestrial enrichment program; i.e., to elicit natural, species-appropriate behaviors while reducing stereotypy.
A ‘touch-tank’ is a type of zoo and aquarium exhibit whose purpose is to provide the visitor with a closer, more intimate experience with an animal species, however, it does not often reflect the natural environment nor encourage species-appropriate behaviors. Furthermore, animal behavior in ‘touch-tank’ exhibits can be influenced by guest interactions; e.g., hand feeding near the surface of the water. The behavioral observations within a population of 31 Rhinoptera bonasus led to the development of a new enrichment and training program at the Phoenix Zoo’s Stingray Bay. The program attempts to maintain a balance between stimulating natural behaviors and providing a more rewarding visitor experience that enhances the connection between the guests and the animals. Interactions between the animals and their new enrichment were recorded, evaluated, and an ethogram was developed based on consistent behaviors seen within the population.
Getting to Know Gerry:
Operant Conditioning of a
Giant Sea Bass
California Science Center
Operant conditioning is a common form of training utilized by many working in the animal husbandry industry. Through the use of positive and negative reinforcement, one is able to achieve a desired behavior. Documented training has occurred amongst a variety of animals. From determining the intelligence of Crows (Powell, 1972), to conditioning parrots to receive medical treatments (Daugette, 2012), to even training dolphins to fight off sharks (Irvine, 1973). However, there is little documented success with teleost fish in the aquatic husbandry field. In this study, positive reinforcement is used to target train a Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas) in order to easily administer necessary medical treatments during outbreaks of a common eye parasite. Training was performed, in an isolated holding tank, three times a week for approximately 10 months to achieve the desired behavior. Training was then successfully continued after moving the animal back into the Kelp Tank Exhibit. This study gives evidence towards the intelligence of such a species and the ability for aquarists to perform less stressful medical applications with animals of the teleost class.