Same family but distinctly their own

Noting the difference between sea lions and seals

Sea lions are often mistaken for seals. The experts here at Marineland can help you identify the difference. Any of our trainers would explain that even though both mammals belong to the family of pinnipeds, meaning “fin footed”, there are points of distinction between the two. These differences include their fins, flippers, ears and voices.

Seals have small front flippers and large, trailing hind flippers, making them agile in the water where they spend most of their time. These flippers are useless for movement on land; seals inch along similar to the way a caterpillar would move.

On the other fin, sea lions have large front flippers and small hind flippers that bend forward. The sea lions flippers allow them to “walk” on land on all fours; this ease of movement means they spend more time on land than seals.

Another visible difference – their ears.  Seals have pinhole openings located on the sides of their heads.  Sea lions have small, external ear flaps that stick out on either side.

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California Sea Lion

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Harbour Seal

Sea lions are very vocal – in fact, they can be downright noisy.  Seals are much quieter emitting soft, low grunts as opposed to the sea lion’s loud bark.

With this knowledge, the next time you are seated at the King Waldorf Stadium and your friend, a first-timer to Marineland, says, “Aren’t those seals adorable?” You’ll respond, “Those are sea lions. We’ll visit the Aquarium Dome where we can see the cutest seals!”

Accentuate the Positive…

 A look at Positive Reinforcement Reward System

 

After presentations, Marineland trainers love answering guest’s questions. The most common is, “how do you train your marine mammals?”

The trainers use a healthy and successful training technique called Positive Reinforcement Reward System.  This system respects the animal by using positive reinforcement, it never allows for punishment.

How does the positive reinforcement reward system work?

Every time an animal performs a behavior correctly the trainer blows a whistle signaling a perfect performance and the animal is rewarded. The animal is never punished for performing a behavior incorrectly; the trainer simply repeats the cue to encourage the animal to try again.

What rewards are used for positive reinforcement?

The reinforcement can be food, a tongue tickle, a back scratch, a belly rub or playtime where large rings and balls are placed in the pool.  While food is a reinforcement used, it is important to note that the animals receive all the food that they require to meet their dietary needs whether they perform the requested behavior or not.

 

Kelly & Apollo

A walrus getting a well-deserved back scratch

Beluga Playtime 2

A beluga enjoying playtime with a ball

What types of behaviours do the animals learn?

The trainers teach the animals a variety of behaviours like waving hello or crunching out a few sit-ups. But, there is another important set of behaviours the animals perform called “husbandry” behaviours. These actions help our veterinarians and marine mammal staff to monitor and maintain the health of the animals.

How long does training take?

Basic behaviours require a few months of training, elaborate behaviours require about two years of training. The process helps keep the animals mentally sharp and physically fit. Some learn faster than others and each animal has a unique style.

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A beluga and trainer working together

Marine Mammal Enrichment

Enriching the lives of our marine mammals is an integral part of animal care at Marineland and is as important as the nutrition and medical care that they receive. The act of providing stimulating and challenging environments, toys and activities for the animals is called enrichment. The benefits to the animals are many and include, but are not limited to, mental stimulation, physical activity and promotion of the animal’s natural behaviours like exploring, foraging and diving.

Ice Toy 1Ice Toy 3Ice Toy 2Generally, we divide enrichment into two main types: Environmental Enrichment Devices (EED) like toys, balls and brushes and Environmental Enrichment Activities (EEA) like giving a whale a full body water massage with a sprayer hose or playing peek-a-boo at the underwater glass. Who knew aluminum foil could be used like this!

Peek-A-Boo 1Smooshi PeekingSonja & Joce 2Sonja & Joce 1Sometimes, enrichment can actually be both a device and an activity – such as using a long-handled brush (a device) to rub the pectoral fins of a whale (an activity). Even feeding, training or husbandry procedures are viewed as enrichment activities and are treated in that manner so that we can make such activities exciting and stimulating for the animal.

Within each species there are wide ranges of individual preferences on what an animal enjoys, just like humans. Our caregivers devote a great deal of time and effort to get to know individual animals’ preferences in order to create activities and design devices that will engage and enthrall an animal.

When deciding if an EEA or EED is acceptable to use, the safety of the animal is paramount. In the case of EEDs several criteria need to be considered. Does the object have any rough edges? Is it sturdy enough to withstand salt, cold temperatures or the pounding from a 4,500 kg animal? Is it made of safe material? All of these questions and more are taken into account by our marine mammal care team. Marineland has an enrichment craftsman in our carpenter shop who can work with our marine mammal care team to design and build various EEDs as in some cases a suitable device just can’t be found at a store.

Enhancing the lives of the animals in our care is our top priority and enrichment plays a key role in helping us achieve that goal.

What’s On The Menu?

Well, anything from herring to hay. Marineland provides wholesome, nutritious and palatable foods to all of our animals under the expert direction of our veterinary staff.

All of our marine mammals are fed restaurant quality herring, capelin and squid. In fact, you could take some home, cook it up and have it for dinner.

fishOur black bears receive a balanced diet of fish, fresh fruits, meats and vegetables. Yum!

Our deer, bison and elk dine only on hay that is of top quality. How much hay? Would you believe 110 bales per day?

For members of our deer family, hay is fed in conjunction with grains such as oats, corn and barley.

 

DID YOU KNOW?… AMAZING WALRUS FACT

Male walruses and some female walruses have special air sacs in their necks that hold air (up to 50 litres) allowing them to keep their heads above water for extended periods of time – they can even sleep this way. Amazing!

The males also use the air sacs to produce a characteristic bell-like sound when courting female walruses.

The first picture shows Zeus without inflated air sacs and the second picture shows Zeus with inflated air sacs.

Zeus2Zeus Air Sac2

 

 

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