Aug 3, 2023
Our ability to rescue, treat, and hopefully, return stranded marine mammals to sea has greatly improved over the past few decades with advancements in husbandry, medicine, and veterinary care. However, our ability to also behaviorally treat animals, especially juveniles during critical learning periods, to better prepare them physically and mentally for the wild has understandably lagged behind over concerns about animals becoming habituated to human activities and objects. Recently, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center led a pilot study, to explore the benefits of providing rescue animals access to environmental enrichment devices with support provided by KONG company founder, Joe Markham and his team, to determine if such use would increase desirable behaviors while reducing the development of unwanted behaviors such as looking for rescue staff. Several of the coauthors of the resulting paper, Environmental Enrichment Devices Are Safe and Effective at Reducing Undesirable Behaviors in California Sea Lions and Northern Elephant Seals during Rehabilitation, published in the journal Animals discuss the project, including Dr. Hendrik Nollens, Dr. Alissa Deming, lead author Kirsten Donald, and AnimalConcepts' Sabrina Brando.