Animal Science and Technology
Animal and Veterinary Science
sea lion; training; husbandry; veterinary care; animal behavior
Little research has been conducted in determining how to train a Northern Fur Sea Lion (Callorhinus ursinus) for veterinary husbandry care procedures. There is no clear path or instruction manual on how to complete a veterinary examination on a Fur Sea Lion, or any marine mammal for that matter, since every animal behaves and reacts differently. Animal behavior (ethology) is an ongoing field of study that focuses on the natural interactions between these species with each other, other living organisms (including humans), and their environment. The purpose of this research is to establish a guideline on how to begin training a young Fur Sea Lion for veterinary care procedures such as but not limited to opening of mouth for oral exams, working desensitization practice so veterinarians can touch without any movements, ultrasounds done in a layout position, blood draws, eyes drops, and general tactile and desensitization behaviors. In this study I demonstrate the building of relationships between the animal and its trainer, and show how the animal voluntarily submits to a procedure, such as a blood draw. In many cases the public and even veterinarians do not understand all the training, building of relationships based on trust with the animal, and the confidence that it takes for these trainers to prepare these marine mammals for care procedures. I think it is important to understand all the work that goes into training these husbandry practices to truly be a successful veterinarian. Therefore, my objective is to show the step-by-step process of how to train a pinniped for several daily veterinary husbandry procedures. The Northern Fur Sea Lion I worked with to collect my data and analyze the husbandry practices, was a two-year old fur pup named Avila, whose home is the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Avila’s behaviors and husbandry training were documented after each training session and analyzed in detail. This study aims at creating a general guideline on how to train a pinniped for several daily veterinary husbandry procedures, and the associated animal behavioral challenges that occur along the way. My hope is that this project will help serve the purpose of aiding animal trainers and veterinarians in the care practices for more marine mammals in the future.