July 22, 2014
Dory Makes A Splash
- as seen by -James Gottlieb
Dory, an orphaned California sea lion pup, was unable to survive in the wild and considered unreleasable. She arrived at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo about a year ago. Three months later, Dory moved to WCS’s Prospect Park Zoo, at which point she would not tolerate being touched by her keepers. This complicated things, such as routine health exams. Through operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, we gradually gained her trust.
When Dory executes a desired behavior or response, she is rewarded with fish or a word like “good” signaling to her that she has completed the task asked of her. Training enables us to provide her with the best possible care as she adjusts to her new environment and bonds with us. It lays the foundation for other behaviors that allow us to monitor her well-being as she grows.
Working with Dory is the highlight of my day. She has a tremendous personality with a mischievous streak. She learns very quickly. My co-worker has trained Dory to porpoise (a natural behavior for sea lions in the wild to evade predators.) She leaps and flips out of the water appearing to enjoy her own capabilities and the positive response she gets from our staff and visitors. It has been gratifying to watch her thrive. I am grateful and proud to work for an organization that participates in these important rescue efforts.