One Fish, Two Fish, Burrfish, Trained Fish

May 5, 2020

Fish are often associated with having small brains and short term memory loss. While we cannot argue about the size of their brains, we have reason to believe fish have problem-solving capabilities. Our animal care team has been target training some of the ambassador fish in the Dalton Discovery Center. Watch education intern Izzy explain her experience target training our striped burrfish and planehead filefish.

Conservancy education interns are each expected to complete a project during their time with us. These projects can range from educational program development, research, animal training and enrichment, or some sort of combination. These projects help our interns further explore topics they are passionate about or want to learn more about. Before coming to the Conservancy, Izzy worked with marine mammals, and she had little experience working with fish. This project gave her the opportunity to get outside of her comfort zone and learn a little bit more about the animals she helps care for.

The purpose of target training goes beyond an animal learning “a trick”. Target training teaches you how to communicate with an animal and let it know that good things (food) are coming their way. It helps you monitor the health of that animal without having to stress it out with physical touch and restraint. Most importantly, it helps you build a bond with the animal you are caring for.

The key to target training is being consistent and more stubborn than the animal you are training. Sometimes the animals cooperate and sometimes they don’t. That is okay. The important thing is that we give them the choice to participate or not. If they choose not to we just try again later. Being patiently persistent, more often than not, pays off.

This project is just one of the many wonderful things the Conservancy education interns are working on. This year other intern projects included creating enrichment for our animalsteaching others how to use scrap paper to plant seeds, and engagement of school groups through the creation of a tactile touch board. While these internships may come to an end, these projects create a lasting impact.