May 6, 2021
California Sea Lion Triple Bow
- as seen by -Sarah Rashed
WCS’s New York Aquarium presents a daily, high energy wildlife program called “Sea Lion Celebration” to connect our guests with the animals in our care and inspire conservation action. A most impressive behavior that might be seen during the show is the triple bow (above) with California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) Osborn, Bruiser, and Clark.
Bows, also known as porpoising, are when sea lions swim at high speeds and leap out of the water and then reenter head first where they glide close to the surface. The sea lions can reach speeds of 25 mph due to their torpedo-shaped bodies.
There are several reasons sea lions bow in the wild including navigation, traveling, playing, hunting, and avoiding predators. At the aquarium, we view the sea lions bowing to be playful which helps us to train them.
We use a process called scanning where an animal is asked to perform a natural behavior on cue. We wait for a sea lion to perform a behavior without prompting and reinforce it immediately. If we do this consistently, the animal will perform a behavior more often.
We noticed our sea lions bowing in front of us for their favorite fish reinforcement. We added a hand signal and verbal cue. Once each individual animal learned to bow on cue, we asked them to do it simultaneously and reinforced the synchronized behavior. Osborn, Bruiser, and Clark understand they need to work as a team to get their reinforcement. The result is this eye-catching triple bow.
We hope that guests who attend our show and see these incredible animals will be motivated to learn more about sea lions and inspired to protect wildlife.