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Oregon Zoo’s Seals Get Into ‘Shape’ With New Fitness Routine



Oregon Zoo’s Seals Get Into ‘Shape’ With New Fitness Routine. While many of us have already given up on our New Year fitness drives, harbour seals at Oregon Zoo have been earning their fish suppers with a new activity – shape training. Care staff in the zoo’s marine life area have been working with harbour seals Tongass, Atty, and Kaya on recognising specific shapes both above and below the water. Each seal is assigned their own shape – Tongass the star, Atty the moon and Kaya the triangle. When senior keeper Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey gives them a cue, they dive below the surface and head toward an underwater viewing window where other keepers are holding shapes against the glass. Once the seals find their marks, keepers might request a series of behaviours – like “spin,” “flipper present” and “mouth open”. And after they complete their routine, the seals are rewarded with some of their favorite foods. According to Nicassio-Hiskey, they’re learning quickly and having a good time doing it, but the training also serves a higher purpose. “Practicing these behaviors in a fun environment helps the harbour seals participate in their own care,” she explained. Harbour seals are graceful underwater and can swim forward, backward and upside-down. Depending on what they’re hunting, they dive 300 to 1,500 feet, closing their nostrils close and slowing their heart rate from 100 beats per minute to about 5 beats per minute. These changes allow them to stay underwater as long as 35 minutes.

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