Bubble rings and beluga whales

Ken Ramirez
Presentation given at the 2016 Conference

Throughout history, humans have been fascinated by the social behaviors and playful antics exhibited by marine mammals. One unusual behavior that has delighted and mystified both researchers and the public is bubble rings: the large, stable rings of air that dolphins and beluga whales create by blowing a puff of air out of their mouth or blowhole. These unique creations seem to not have any purpose, other than to amuse the animals as they play. Unfortunately, these beautiful bubble rings can be hard to observe, as they occur somewhat unpredictably.

One aquarium wanted to find out if a complex natural behavior such as this could be shaped and put on cue. So, they sought out Ken to assist with this unique training project. Training this behavior required the use of a variety of techniques and concepts including capturing behavior, micro-shaping, understanding poisoned cues, fading, negotiating skills, and working in a foreign country with trainers who did not speak English. This presentation will give a brief overview of the training and the steps that led to successful results.

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