On October 19th, 1997, Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) responded to a stranded mother and calf pair on Belleair Shores, Florida. The mother, Autumn, exhibited an external wound on her pectoral fin, likely a result from a rope injury. Her calf, Harvey, was estimated to be between 3-12 months old and healthy. However, due to his young age, he was transported with Autumn for rehabilitation at CMA. After about 6 months in rehabilitation, the animals were deemed releasable and were released on April 17th, 1998 on Clearwater Beach, Florida. In addition to freeze branding, Autumn was satellite tagged to track their movements after release. She was tracked for a total of 152 days, traveling off of the central west coast of Florida! Yet another success story thanks to the hard work and dedication of CMA’s Stranding Team.

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

Labatt, a juvenile Green Sea Turtle, was found by Adam Morley of St. Augustine Ecotours on Valentine’s Day in 2012, and she was sent to the Marine Science Center in Volusia County. Labatt was unfortunately the victim of a boat strike- she had a cracked plastron, and her carapace (which took the majority of the hit) was severely damaged. Because she had a small number of fibropapilloma tumors present (and Volusia County is unable to treat fibropapilloma cases), Labatt was transported across Florida, and joined our rehab family on February 15th, 2012. She earned her unique name from “Labatt Blue” because of the blue paint (from the boat) that was present on the cracked parts of her carapace.

Labatt received her first CT Scan the day after her arrival, was immediately put on antibiotics, and began receiving fluid administrations, tube feedings, and basic wound care. This was the best that we would be able to do for her until the following week, (when Dr. Walsh was scheduled to arrive) and be able to fully evaluate her condition. When Dr. Walsh came on February 22nd, he found Labatt’s wound was centered on her anterior end, and 50% of her carapace had been crushed. There were numerous segments of dead bone, and the condition of her wounds suggested her accident had actually occurred approximately 2 weeks prior to her arrival. Dr. Walsh cleaned her wounds, treated them with Ilex cream and honey, and sealed them with Tegaderm, a clear, waterproof bandage. This initial wound care would be the first of many for Labatt, who would need the bandage removed and changed once a week, have dead tissue removed, and have Ilex and honey treatments until she was healed. If done correctly, the bone would be able to repair itself, and the scutes on her carapace would grow back and heal over the wound.

From the very beginning, Labatt was not an easy turtle. In addition to her injuries, she was initially very difficult to feed. She was a very selective eater, would often only eat one fish at a time (from tongs!) and needed plenty of breaks during her feeding sessions. Over time, she gradually began to forage on her own, and was eating everything offered to her. Dr. Walsh even had us feeding her three times a day so that we could get her metabolism working regularly, put weight on her, and also encourage the growth of new tissue in her wound. In addition to this progress, Labatt underwent laser surgery, and had all of her fibropapilloma tumors successfully removed.

Over the course of the last year, Labatt received almost 30 wound care treatments and bandage changes, had successful tumor removal surgery, 4 CT Scans, and gained a total of 6.9Kgs. On March 25th, Dr. Walsh reviewed Labatt’s records, observed her swimming, evaluated her overall body condition and final CT Scans… and cleared her for release! On April 7th, Labatt was transported back to Flagler County and released in St. Augustine where she was originally rescued. Labatt is another reminder of why were are here, and why we continue to dedicate our time to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of these amazing animals!

Posted in Turtles