Some of you already know the story of Xana, the sea lion with regurgitation problems as one of the WeZooit members, Enzo Rodriguez, carried out this training and presented it at the IMATA 2018 conference in Portugal.


On this occasion, we will focus on telling you how the step by step of a somewhat complex training was conducted.

What was Xana’s problem?

At the end of the training sessions she regurgitated between fifteen and twenty times, always doing it when the team left the facility and after showing a clear precursor, which consisted of moving the neck back a bit while swimming, and just after regurgitating.

It is shown clearly in the following video.

 

 

 

We gave five diets a day, and she would regurgitate always at the end of each session, so she would show us this unwanted behavior a hundred times a day!

This caused great concern in the team. By regurgitating so many times, her daily fish intake decreased and she lost many of the nutrients she needed. Since the decision to raise the diet was not enough to compensate for this, and Xana reflected an obvious weight loss, without taking more time a meticulous training protocol was designed.

 

Training protocol.

We already had the problem, so now we had to find the solution to extinguish this unwanted behavior. I started to design a training plan knowing that it was very complex and that it would be very hard work, requiring a lot of perseverance and dedication, but we were convinced that we could do it with the great team of trainers we had in Jungle Park (Tenerife).

We made a very detailed protocol of the steps we would be taking, accompanied by a comprehensive data collection, which would help us know when we needed to move forward. The data we collected were: the time of the session and its duration, the name of the trainer, how much time passed between one session and the next, the amount of fish she ingested, the enclosure where she was, and with which animals she was with.

Here is an example:

 

 

The first part of the training plan was to do mini-sessions; we waited a minute and went back to do a new session. In cases where she regurgitated, we would avoid any interaction with her for ten or fifteen minutes.

 

In the first few days we have to perform fifty-eight daily sessions spread over twelve hours. Within a few days, we made her realize that even if the session ended we would soon be back. And therefore Xana would be more aware of the new session, rather than regurgitating. With this we significantly reduced the number of regurgitation incidences.

At the same time we started to work on the social part with her, because on the social scale of the group, she is a submissive animal and we wanted to avoid this having any kind of influence on the regurgitation.

 

Every Monday we would have a meeting with the whole team, analysing the data that was taken during the week, and we would decide: if we were moving forward at any point in the planning; how to extend the time between one session and another; increase session time; or increase the amount of fish given.

The next step in the training protocol was to be able to stimulate her, and to have her mind occupied, so for that reason we began to train her to distinguish figures. This led to a further reduction in the number of regurgitation incidences, as we had increased her motivation in each session.

 

Xana making distinction of figures.

 

To continue with the goal of continuing to stimulate her and increase her motivation in each session, the next step was to start training the association of an object as a signal of a behavior.

 

Xana performing object association to a behavior.

 

As we said at the beginning, this was a very long work, and getting Xana to stop regurgitating took us about two years. This is because the changes we made, week after week, were very thorough to try not to allow any relapsing back into the problem.

Little by little we reduced the daily sessions and extended the time in between, until we had seven daily sessions without regurgitations.

 

These mini-sessions, figure training, and association of objects to a behavior went hand in hand with training her to perform an endoscopy and a voluntary biopsy, in order to have a diagnosis of her state of health and to look for the reason for the regurgitation.

 

These mini-sessions, figure training, and association of objects to a behavior went hand in hand with training her to perform an endoscopy and a voluntary biopsy, in order to have a diagnosis of her state of health and to look for the reason for the regurgitation.

All this was possible thanks to the relationship of the whole team with Xana, and the great work done, both by the veterinary team, and trainers of Jungle Park (Tenerife).

"Thank you team, because without your dedication and dedication this would not have been possible".

Stay tuned to our following articles to see how we continue with voluntary Xana endoscopy.

 

And remember, if it’s possible… WeZooit!

 

 

 

 

 

SHARE