Shellebrating our Loggerhead Sea Turtle!

By Sally Tang

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 3 p.m. you can spy our aquarists waving a shiny red thing in the water and our Sea Turtle swimming towards it, but what is it? Our rescued Loggerhead Sea Turtle is target trained, meaning she knows to go to the bright red target when it’s time for a meal. Target training is a form of behavior modification that is used by animal care staff to monitor how much the sea turtle is eating, assess her health when she comes to the surface, and positively reinforce interactions with caretakers. She is trained to follow or “target” the red ball and receives positive reinforcement (like a yummy fish) as a reward.

You may also see other training equipment in the exhibit while our Loggerhead Sea Turtle is fed. An example is the large black “lift basket” that is used to lift her out of her exhibit for annual vet checkups. She is trained to follow the target and swim into the basket so that it is as easy as possible to lift her up.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to see staff interacting and training one of our most charismatic residents.

Click through the photo gallery to watch how seasational our Sea Turtle is at the task!

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego