Here at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium we have been very blessed to have met and been collaborating with Don and Cindy Lang. For those of you who do not know Don and Cindy, they are a couple that works with various aquariums to produce enrichment and cognitive devices for resident animals. Currently Don and Cindy have collaborated with our team of trainers to produce a bubble machine and music piano for our resident dolphins.

The most recent device we have conceptualized and was brought to life by Don and Cindy is our Otter Enrichment Device! The idea behind this device was to provide different enrichment to the otters (food, toys, or water play), but rather than us choosing the reinforcement the otter gets to choose what they want. The way it works is a base plate is placed into the otter habitat; on it has a series of 4 buttons that the otter can choose from. Three of the buttons correspond to different enrichment (food, toys, or water play) and the forth button must be pushed to receive the reinforcement. The enrichment once selected will drop down out of select areas in their habitat (see picture right). We have decided to call the device the “Ultimate Reinforcer.” It is somewhat similar to a stuffed toy claw machine. You would move the joystick to select what you want and then you press the trigger button to drop the claw to grab the toy. We are very excited to provide this form of enrichment to our otters! Please come join us in otter oasis to see it in action!

Posted in Otter, Trainers

RICKY & LUCY: Teddy Bear Retrieval

Teddy Bear Retrieval – To retrieve the teddy bear and bring to trainer.

Purpose – Cognitive behavior in which the birds need to think of how to retrieve the teddy bear and bring it to their trainer.

Training – Learning to grab with bill and drag.


Ball kick – Line up ventrally and kick ball up using tail flukes.

Purpose – Exercise and play.

Training – Almost complete!

WALLE – Stand

Stand – Stand up and balance body on hind legs.

Purpose – Can be used as a husbandry behavior to check over body.

Training – Using target pole to guide in a standing position and adding verbal cue “Stand.”

Posted in Animals, Otter, Trainers

The Sultans of Streams

Not long ago Britain’s otters were all but wiped out by chemicals leaching into rivers. They’ve made a comeback.

By Adam Nicolson
Photograph by Charlie Hamilton James

“I am hunting otters with Charlie, the two of us in wet suits, our bodies submerged, level with the sea. The tankers are sliding in toward the piers and gas flares of the oil terminal at Sullom Voe. This is Shetland, at the far northern tip of the British Isles. Helicopters from the North Sea rigs clatter into the airport behind us, but they seem a world away.

Charlie Hamilton James has been photographing British otters ever since he fell in love with them during their decline some decades ago, and has followed them obsessively as they have made their way back to health. He knows how to stalk an otter and has told me the technique: Your face as low in the water as it can go, neoprene helmet well down, and quiet—no whispering (gestures better), your breath quiet, your fins quiet, and if you’re lucky, you might get near one.

Tiny flatfish move away from our feet in the shallows. Two seals come to inspect us, goggle-eyes, fat submarine bodies. But the otter we thought was here, which an hour ago was a distant three-part silhouette in the binoculars, a disc of a head, the arched back, a long strong tail, or as it is beautifully called, the rudder, is nowhere to be seen. Male otters display like this, with the rudder prominent, in a kind of swaggering signal to other otters that this is their territory. We look and wait while the cold seeps into the bones.”


Posted in Otter

How cute is the sea otter! They are a marine mammal which can be found on the coasts of the Northern Pacific Ocean and are the largest member of the weasel family. They have the densest fur in the whole animal kingdom, ranging from 250,000 to one million hairs per square inch. Now that’s a lot of fur!

There are a lot of different interesting sea otter facts, but the most talked about is how sea otters hold hands when they sleep. So, why do they do this?

Sea otters will often float in groups (called rafts) whilst they eat, rest and sleep. A raft of otters can be anything from two otters to hundreds! And, whilst they are rafting, it is well known that they will all hold hands to stay together in their group. Also, the sea otter will use sea plants that grow from the ocean floor which they will wrap themselves up in, which helps keep them from drifting away.


Posted in Otter