Do You Know How Playful Walruses Are?

Dan Macdonald, a marine mammal caregiver at Marineland explains, “A lot of the behind the scene care for walruses is play.”

Walruses are social and love to play together. They have even more fun if toys are incorporated. Now, what toys does a walrus like? Balls, huge logs and icebergs are the current favourites!

The walruses have their own community and can be selective about whom they want to spend time with. For example, Dan Macdonald explains, “Sonja really likes to live and be with Buttercup. So, when we get a chance to, we make sure they get to spend as much time as possible with each other.”

Now isn’t that cute? Check out the video here:

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

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

 

 

The Star of the Show

They are some of the biggest stars at Marineland, but they’re quite humble about it. Smooshi, Apollo, Zeus, and the others are happy to get their pictures taken, regularly entertaining crowds at King Waldorf’s Stadium. It’s hard not to love walruses.

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