A common question asked of Taronga’s Marine Mammal keepers is: “How long does it take to train a seal for the seal show?” The answer is not a simple one, but New Zealand Fur-seal, Ronnie, is a good example of how it works.
Ronnie arrived as a young pup at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital in 2008 with severe injuries, most likely from a shark attack.
Due to his age and the extent of the care required for his recovery, it was determined that Ronnie should remain in our care.
The first priority, once he was back to a healthy state and eating fish, was to train ‘husbandry behaviours’. These are the simple body inspections that allow us to maintain our seals’ health, while giving them control over their interactions with us.
Only once these behaviours were established (many of which are included in our daily presentations), did we begin the process of training those behaviours used specifically for the show.
As with people, seals learn at different rates, showing greater enthusiasm for some behaviours than others. Six years after arriving at the zoo as an injured pup, Ronnie is now able to present the entire seal show and will continue his learning every day.
- Marine Mammal Keeper, Stephen Dalleywater