Tel.: 52 (322) USA Toll Free AN INTRODUCTION TO MARINE MAMMAL TRAINING AT DOLPHIN ADVENTURE

AN INTRODUCTION TO MARINE MAMMAL TRAINING AT DOLPHIN ADVENTURE Tel.: 52 (322) 297-1212 • USA Toll Free 1-800-303-2653 [email protected] ...
Author: Byron Fields
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AN INTRODUCTION TO MARINE MAMMAL TRAINING AT DOLPHIN ADVENTURE

Tel.: 52 (322) 297-1212 • USA Toll Free 1-800-303-2653 [email protected]

AN INTRODUCTION TO MARINE MAMMAL TRAINING AT DOLPHIN ADVENTURE

TRAINER FOR A DAY BOOKLET

VALLARTA ADVENTURES

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF ANIMAL TRAINING!

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he Trainer for a Day program was developed for people who want to learn more about training marine mammals. Before we get into details of training, you need to first learn about the marine mammals that we care for.

In this booklet, there are basic information on two different kinds of marine mammals that live in our Center – the Bottlenose Dolphin and the South American Sea Lion. However, you will only be learning with the dolphins in this program. You will get the chance to spend an exciting day working beside our dolphin trainers. You will be in close contact with our family of Bottlenose Dolphins throughout the day. From feeding and behavioral techniques to helping our dolphin trainers during the Dolphin Encounter and Swim with Dolphins programs, you will learn the basic skills of caring for and training dolphins as you assist our trainers in every aspect of their work.

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THE BOTTLENOISE DOLPHIN

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mongst the many species of dolphins in the world, the Bottlenose Dolphin is the most well known. This species was popularized by the American film and television series “Flipper”, in the 1960’s. This media exposure sparked the popularity of the Bottlenose Dolphin around the

world. It is also the species most commonly seen in captivity. Recently, studies have shown that there are two species of Bottlenose dolphins – the Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus).

ANCESTRY AND EVOLUTIONARY ORDER The ancestors of dolphins were four-legged mammals that lived on land about 50 million years ago. Fossils have suggested that dolphin ancestors were amphibious mammals that lived in shallow subtropical seas, somewhat resembling that of a larger otter. These amphibious animals evolved into pure oceanic life about 10 million years ago.

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Dolphins belong to a group of marine mammals of the Order Cetacea, which includes whales and porpoises. The order Cetacea has two suborders – Order Mysticeti (baleen whales) and Order Odontoceti (toothed whales). Nine families fall under Order Odontoceti. One of which is the Family Delphinidae (oceanic dolphins) where the Bottlenose Dolphins belong.

DESCRIPTION The robust body of a Bottlenose dolphin is predominantly gray, varying from dark gray at the top nears the dorsal fin to very light gray to white on the underside. The common Bottlenose dolphin can grow as long as 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) and weigh up to 650 kilograms. Its cousin, the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin is smaller, growing only to 2.6 meters (8.3 feet) and weighing up to 300 kilograms. It is difficult to tell these two species apart, but basically, the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphins has some dark spots on its belly and sides, and its beak is a little longer than that of the common Bottlenose dolphin. DISTRIBUTION Bottlenose dolphins are found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters but do occur in the north and south poles. They are found in a wide variety of marine habitats. There are offshore and inshore populations. Some are even found in bays and estuaries. It is regarded as the most adaptable cetacean due to its wide distribution.

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ANATOMY The upper and lower jaw of a dolphin is called the rostrum, also known as the beak. The rostrum of a Bottlenose dolphin is elongated and conical, resembling a bottle, which is why the species is so aptly named. The dolphin’s body is perfectly designed for life in the ocean. Their smooth rubbery skin and b o d y s h a p e m a ke s t h e m g l i d e

through the water with ease. The dorsal fin, which is located in the middle of their backs, enables them to keep their balance. The pectoral fin found on both sides of the body enables them to steer through the water, while the tail flukes are used for propulsion, which controls their speed. Dolphins have adapted very well to living in the water, however being mammals, they must breathe air.

They breathe through the blowhole, which is located on the top of their heads. The blowhole acts like a single nostril only that it is upside down and has a flap, which keeps the water from coming in. Dolphins have ears, however, they look and act much differently than the human ear. In a Bottlenose dolphin, the ear is located about 5-6cm behind the eye and

is very small, only about 2-3mm in diameter. The gender of dolphins can only be done by close observation. Since dolphins are streamlined, the male sex organ is hidden inside the genital slit which is located in between t h e n a ve l ( u m b i l i c u s ) a n d t h e peduncle. The general difference is, only the female dolphin have mammary slits, which are located on both sides of the genital slit.

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6 Rostrum / Beak

DORSAL FIN BRAIN

SCAPULA

Blowhole

Mouth

Dolsal fin

LUNG

KIDNEY

Eye

SPINAL COLUMN

Ear Pectoral fin

BLUBBER

BLOW HOLE

Peduncle

FLUKES

SKULL MELON

Mammary slit

Anus

EYE INTESTINES

LIVER

FEMALE

PELVIS ANUS

Genital slit

STOMACH

Umbilicus

LARYNX TEETH

ESOPHAGUS

HEART FLIPPER

MEDIAN NOTCH

Anus

MALE

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ADAPTATIONS Sleep Since they breathe air, dolphins have developed a very unique way of sleeping. While they sleep, only half their brain is shut down together with the opposite eye. The other half of the brain remains awake and retains a level of awareness. They need this to sense any danger as they rest. The terms that best describes this kind of sleeping behavior is being “half-awake or half-asleep”. Being in this state keeps the dolphin from drowning, as the alert side of the brain will signal the dolphin to take a breath of air. Insulation Dolphins are warm blooded animals and have adapted to withstand the cold waters of the ocean

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through their thick layer of blubber, which essentially is fat. They are able to retain a high internal temperature due to this insulating layer. This layer also functions as an energy reserve. Vision Dolphins have adopted to vision above and below the water. Dolphins have special elastic lenses on their eyes that expands and contract, which enables them to focus both above and below the water. They also have large pupils that allow them to see in deeper depths where light is minimal and they can contract the pupil in brighter areas. Vocalizations The sound that a dolphin emits

does not come from its mouth. It actually comes from the blowhole. There are air sacks located below the blowhole that allow dolphins to produce sound for communication and echolocation. Air is filled into these sacs and released to produce sound. They produce high frequency sounds like whistles, clicks or squeaks. Echolocation Echolocation allows the dolphin to hunt and navigate with great efficiency. They basically send out a high frequency sound towards an object, it bounces off that object and returns as an echo, which gives the dolphin information such as the size, shape and distance of the object. These sounds are emitted through the “melon” of the dolphin,

which is located in their foreheads. Echolocation is very important because it works to their advantage in the absence of light, in turbid waters and in deeper waters. Status Since Bottlenose dolphins are found worldwide, generally, their numbers are still abundant. In some areas, however, Bottlenose dolphin populations suffer from direct and indirect exploitation. Millions of dolphins have drowned by being entangled in fishing nets. The tunafishing industry has killed more dolphins in the last 35 years than any other human activity. Dolphins are also killed directly for food in some countries.

TRAINER FOR A DAY BOOKLET

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THE SOUTH AMERICAN SEA LION

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he South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens, formerly Otaria bryonia) is also known as Southern sea lion or maned seal. They are found on the coasts and offshore islands of South America.

ANCESTRY AND EVOLUTIONARY South American sea lion belong to the Order Carnivoria and Suborder Pinnipedia, together with other eared seals, walruses and true seals. The word “pinniped” means winged feet, which basically describes the flippers of these marine mammals. There are three pinniped families: Odobenidae (walruses), Otariidae (eared seals: sea lions & fur seals) and Phocidae (true seals). Pinnipeds are believed to have evolved from a doglike ancestor about 23 million years ago. Just like the ancestor of dolphins, the pinniped ancestor is believed to resemble an otter, which moves well on land and in water. DESCRIPTION Sea lions are different from seals. They are called “eared seals” because they have external ear flaps while seals only have ear holes. Sea lions also have more doglike snouts compared to seals. Male South American sea lions have large heads and well-developed manes, making them best fit the name “sea lion”

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compared to other species. Males are characterized with upturned snouts and are about twice to three times the size of the females. Fully-grown males can reach up to 2.6m (8ft 6in) in length and weigh up to 300Kg (660lb) while adult females grow up to 1.8 – 2m (6.7ft) and weigh about half the weight of the males. The sea lions pups are dark brown and sometimes black, then molt into a chocolate brown color.

ANATOMY A sea lion body is perfectly designed for life in the ocean. They are fast and move swiftly in the water with the use of their limbs called flippers. They have larger webbed fore flippers and hind flippers compared to that of the seals. Despite their relative small ears, called pinnae, sea lions have an excellent sense of hearing. Sea lions have a membrane

at the back of their eyes called a tapetum lucidum, which helps them see in low light. This is basically why the eyes of sea lions appear to glow at night. They also have a nictitating membrane, which keeps away sand and other debris from entering their eyes. Sea lions can navigate and hunt efficiently even in the absence of light by using their whiskers, called vibrissae, which act like sensors. The vibrissae are thick

11 BRAIN

AORTA

ADAPTATIONS Locomotion Sea lions have adapted very well to the aquatic life. Their limbs 12

LIVER

SCAPULA

hairs found on the sea lion muzzle that detects sound or vibrations around them. S e a l i o n s h a ve s h a r p t e e t h that they use to catch their prey. They have 10 pairs of teeth in the upper jaw and eight pairs in the lower jaw.

STOMACH

KIDNEY

EYE

TEETH TONGUE ESOPHAGUS

RECTUM BLADDER

SPLEEN

SPINAL COLUMN

HEART

DIAPHRAGM

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have evolved into wide and flat winged flippers, which they use to move efficiently through the water, swimming as fast as 30 miles per hour. They are able to increase their speed by leaping clear of the water (called porpoising), in which they use to stay clear from their enemies. On land, they are able to move much better than a seal because they use all four flippers to walk and are able to rotate their hind flippers underneath their body. Breathing S e a l i o n s a r e air-breathing mammals. When they dive into the water, their nostrils close automatically to prevent water from entering their lungs. They also have the ability to stay underwater for long periods of time. Sea lions have been recorded to dive to depths of over 600 feets. They have a high tolerance for carbon dioxide and they manage to conserve oxygen by slowing down their heart rate to about one-tenth of the normal rate. The blood flow is then directed to the nervous system and vital organs.

Insulation Sea lions are able to keep warm in cold waters through their fur and thick layer of blubber under their skin. Vision Sea lions can see well both above and below water. They have a clear membrane that covers and protects their eyes when they are in the water. Senses Sea lions can navigate in the absence of light with the help of their whiskers. Their sensitive whiskers also help them sense prey underwater. Distribution The South American sea lion is found along the coasts and offshore islands of South America, specifically on the Chilean, Peruvian, Uruguayan and Argentine coasts. Some individuals have been found as far as the Galapagos Islands. Status South American sea lions were threatened by hunting in the 19th

and 20th centuries. Today, the species is protected in most of its range. However, sea lions populations are declining in some areas. Their populations are considered to conflict with fisheries. Some countries allow the culling of sea lions since they are blamed for competing with their fish catch and damaging fishing nets. The sea lion populations in Argentina and Chile are protected and therefore increasing by 3% each year. However, the populations in Uruguay and the Falkland Islands are decreasing due to their conflict with fisheries.

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THE IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF TRAINING

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Now that you’ve learned a few important facts about our marine mammals, now is the time to learn and understand how and why we need to train them.

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TRAINING IS TEACHING Animal training refers to teaching animals certain responses or behaviors to specific conditions or cues. Animals are commonly trained for obedience, entertainment and education purposes. In many cases, we need to train animals because we need to help them to help us. Animals are used

in search and rescue operations as well as to assist people with special needs. For animals in a captive environment, training helps make their lives less stressful. For instance, animals learn to cooperate during veterinary procedures, which in turn become less stressful to them, and to those who take care of them as well. There are many more reasons why people train animals, just as there are many ways to train them. Although training methods differ from place to place, and styles differ from trainer to trainer, determining the training method that benefits

the animal the most should be an important consideration. The most acceptable method used by many trainers today is training through positive reinforcement. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT Positive Reinforcement is giving a reward to the animal after a desired behavior, increasing the possibility that the behavior will occur again. The reward may be in the form of food, verbal praise, affection or a favorite toy. Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, also increases the likely hood that the behavior will occur

again, however, it is something the animal does not like and wants to avoid. The latter would not be ideal since a good training relationship is based on trust. Gaining an animal’s trst would be negative if negative things are used to make them do what we want. The animals would only respond correctly because of fear. With positive reinforcement the animal performs the behavior because he receives something he wants. This is an important difference, and it is the reason why this positive reinforcement is primarily used by trainers today.

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THERE ARE THREE VERY IMPORTANT TOOLS THAT WE USE IN TRAINING First, of course, is the reward. The reward can be anything the animals like. So what do you think is the favorite reward of a dolphin? Fish of course! But sometimes, they also like toys, praise and affection. Our next tool is the whistle or clicker. This is how we tell the animals that they are doing well. Whenever the animals hear the sound of the whistle or clicker, they know that they are doing correctly what we asked them to do. They also know that they will get their reward when they complete the behavior. The third tool is the target. This is what we use to SHAPE or create a behavior. We teach the animals to follow the target with their rostrum, flipper or arms. So by moving the target in different positions, we can create all sorts of movements or actions with the animals. Like the bow, wave, breach or flip. But when they complete behavior, we no longer use the target. We use hand signals.

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COMMUNICATION BETWEEN US AND THEM Training is about developing a bond with the animals you work with. Training animals is not merely making an animal do something. Training is about trust and partnership. Training can only begin when trust has been established. Marine mammals are very intelligent creatures, and their trust must be earned. Trust is usually developed when the animal needs are met. This may be achieved through daily

interactions of feeding, playing, and caring for them, treating them with respect and being sensitive to their needs. Training is then possible when both human and animal are willing partners in the process. The successful training of an animal is not independent to its good health and welfare. Therefore the success of a trainer will depend on the trainer’s ability to work cooperatively with the animals and provide its needs to keep it happy and healthy.

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TRAINER FOR A DAY BOOKLET

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TRAINING AS ENRICHMENT Animals in captivity are deprived from their natural behaviors, like hunting, foraging for food and avoiding predators. These important missing elements in a captive environment may result to an aggressive, depressive or apathetic animal. Training is a way of keeping an animal physically fit and mentally stimulated. It is the trainer’s goal to provide the animals with substitute behaviors to replace the behaviors they used to do in their natural environment. It is a learning process that may be challenging to both trainer and animal. ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICHMENT The captive environment does not come close to providing the enrichment that a natural environment offers. Therefore trainers must work hard in enriching this captive environment to meet the needs of the animals. The goal of environmental richness is to improve the quality of life of an animal in captivity. It basically provides a variety of behavioral op-

portunities for the captive animals that would be similar or related to the behaviors they would be doing in their natural environment, thus increasing their physical and mental activities. Environmental enrichment comes in many different forms and are designed depending on the purpose. Sometimes enrichment is offered in form of live food so that the animals can hunt or in form of toys and mechanical devices are used to keep the animals mentally stimulated. Providing enrichment regularly looks after the animal’s well being and is now a key element in managing animals in captivity. EDUCATION Dolphins and whales have been the main attractions for aquariums, marine parks and zoos around the world. However, keeping these marine mammals in captivity is a highly controversial issue. The justification for these captive animals is that they act as ambassadors, probably providing the only chance that people will ever get to expe-

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rience them. Even If some people argue that seeing them in the wild is still the best and right way, not many people have the chance to do so. Many people leave aquariums or marine parks with a whole new respect for these animals, since they witnessed their intelligence, beauty and grace at first hand. Many aquariums and marine parks also increased public awareness on the threats that face these animals in the wild, from hunting and pollution to their conflict with fisheries.

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Captive dolphins and whales have also given biologists a chance to study them up close. A great deal of information can be obtained by studying them under controlled conditions. Important detailed biological and behavioral data taken under these conditions have contributed greatly to our understanding of these animals. Research has also shown that dolphins have an amazing effect on people. Many believe that dolphin encounters can alleviate cases of depression or anxiety, speed up the learning potential of children with disabilities and even healing people form life threatening illnesses. The research done on captive dolphins has resulted in valuable information that may have not been realized if only wild populations were studied. PROTECTION There have been several laws passed and organizations set up towards the protection of marine mammals. In the United States, all marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Pro-

tection Act (MMPA) which was passed on October 21th, 1972. This law prohibits the hunting, killing, harassment or capture of marine mammals in US waters and the trade, import and export of any marine mammal parts or biproducts. However, there are some exceptions. Permits are issued to some facilities and research centers and the law does not apply to indigenous people of Alaska, who still hunt whales as part of their tradition. Another law was passed towards the protection of dolphins in 1990. The Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act basically protects dolphins by establishing conditions that are dolphin friendly in conjunction with the tuna fishery. Basically tuna products to be sold in the U.S. now have labeling standards. Tuna products with “dolphin safe” labels mean that no dolphins were killed or harmed in the whole tuna fishery process. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) /Species Survival

Commission (SSC) Cetacean Specialist Group Action Plan also helps in the conservation of bottlenose dolphins and research on threats that face them. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty developed in 1973, helps regulate the trade of certain wildlife species. CITES protects all species of toothed whales. Bottlenose dolphins are listed on CITES Appendix II which means any trade concerning this species is strictly controlled. There are numerous organiz a t i o n s ( Wo r l d W i d e F u n d f o r Nature, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, American Cetacean Society, Greenpeace, etc) campaigning against the threats that face marine mammals by increasing public awareness and government support. There are also stranding networks around the world that help rehabilitate and return stranded marine mammals back to sea. More and more people are working very hard to protect ma-

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rine mammals all over the world. We can also help in our own personal way. Spreading the word about marine mammals and the threat that face them indirectly protect these animals as people becomes more aware of the issues. Keeping the ocean clean by participating in beach clean-ups and other activities is another way to help protect these animals. Volunteering in marine mammal stranding events is another way to be involved in their conservation. We must remember that one effort already makes a difference.

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REFERENCES 1. Cawardine, M., E. Hoyt, R.E. Fordyce and P. Gill. 1998. The Nature Company Guides: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. Time-Life Books. US Weldon Owen Inc. 2. Reeves, R., B.S. Stewart, P.J. Clapham and J.A. Powell. 2002. Guide to Marine Mammals of the World. National Audobon Society. Chanticleer Press Inc. 3. American Cetacean Society Fact Sheet: Bottlenose Dolphins. http://www.acsonline.org/factpack/btlnose.htm 4. South American Sea Lion. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_American_sea_lion 5. South American Sea Lion at MarineBio.org. http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=311 6. Pinnipeds. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piniped 7. The Marine Mammal Protection Act. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/laws/mmpa/ 8.Environmental Enrichment. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_Enrichment 9. Sea Lion. San Diego Zoo. http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalsbytes/t-sealion.htm 10. The Marine Mammal Program. US Fish & Wildlife Service. http://www.fws.gov/habitatconservation/marine_mammals.htm

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