Sharks to be trained like dolphins at Sea Life
SHARKS are to be trained like dolphins to feed from keepers and even roll over and have their tummies tickled.Brave keepers at British aquariums will use the techniques after research showed the predators responded well to tuition. Experts hope the training will reduce stress levels for the captive beasts.The UK’s Sea Life centres will use coloured boards and sounds to train the sharks in a process similar to that used by scientist Ivan Pavlov to train his dogs.Sharks learn the signals and then, when they see or hear them, they approach the keeper who holds a ‘target stick’.
The sharks then rub their noses against the stick and wait until they are fed.The breakthrough means that feeding will become easier because each shark in a tank will know when it is their turn.US research suggests the brightest ones should respond to commands within three months.In US tests some varieties – including the zebra shark – will allow themselves to be picked up and cuddled. No one had attempted to train sharks in this way before, but it could now teach experts a great deal about the creatures.
Carey Duckhouse, a Sea Life shark expert, said: “The US team has shown that many varieties of sharks can quickly learn to respond to a mixture of audible and visual signals.”The implications for improving shark welfare are enormous. We have to move them when they outgrow a tank or when a display needs to be refurbished and this will make it a lot easier for us and them.”The techniques . . . will enable us to carry out regular health inspections and even apply treatment where required without having to trap sharks, remove them from the tank and anaesthetise them.”We have small gongs and triangles — so it is possible sharks will turn up for dinner when they hear the gong sounded.”
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