Swamp School: New Program Gives Spring Breakers A Look Into Animal Training At The Aquarium


Kids won’t mind spending a little of their spring break in class – especially when they attend Swamp School in the Delta Country exhibit. Families get a peek into an animal training session with Aquarium experts who care for the critters in all of the Aquarium’s exhibits every day.

Just like people, animals have special needs to achieve overall wellness. “While training is serious business for our team, it often looks like playtime for our critters,” said Sara Carlson, the Aquarium’s manager of behavioral husbandry and animal encounter programs. “For example, otters are regularly taught to present their bellies or show their teeth so that veterinary staff can get the best look at them during exams. Show your teeth on cue, get a tasty treat.”

During this new program, visitors get to sit in on a target training session with a Gopher Tortoise in the Aquarium’s Delta Country exhibit. Keepers use target training to direct an animal’s attention toward a certain object in order to elicit a specific behavior. In this case, guests see the tortoise learning to move toward and touch its nose to a red training ball placed by a keeper and then receiving a reward. Once the animal is familiar with a target, it can be used to direct an animal to a certain spot, like a veterinary scale for example.

Swamp School runs now through April 10 as part of the Aquarium’s “Critter for a Day” Spring Break program, in which can learn about life at the Aquarium through the eyes of an Aquarium creature. To learn more about spring break fun at the Aquarium, click here.

There are many programs out there, that allow interested humans to learn how best to help herps. This is one of them. Check with your local conservation agencies, rescues, animal hospitals, and aquariums for some near you!