Tanner touches his nose to a visual target.
Cruz, a disabled California Sea Lion pup, has found a new home at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA rescued the pup in July 2012, when he was discovered alone on a beach in Santa Cruz. Blinded in both eyes by gunshot wounds, Cruz recovered at the Marine Mammal Center and now joins three other California Sea Lions at Shedd Aquarium, including a five-year old rescue named Tanner.
“Building trusting relationships is the cornerstone to providing the highest quality care for our animals, particularly in Cruz’s case,” says Ken Ramirez, Shedd Aquarium’s executive vice president of animal care and training. “We literally have to be his eyes, which requires a solid bond between animal and trainer. Since he arrived at the aquarium, Cruz has been comfortably relying on our animal care team to guide him, demonstrating incredible progress.”
Cruz’s training is adapted to fit his strengths. Usually, caretakers train the animals to follow and touch a visual target, rewarding them with food. This touch-target training helps the animals to cooperate with caretakers as they do health checkups and clean. Cruz successfully follows an auditory cue, a rattle, instead of a visual target.
“Though blind in both eyes, he has a fearless personality and eagerness to learn – two characteristics that indicated we could provide him with a strong quality of life through training,” says Ramirez.
Read more about Cruz and Tanner after the fold.