The Use of Positive Reinforcement in Training Zebra Sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum)

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Positive reinforcement training (PRT) was used on 4 adult zebra sharks, Stegostoma fasciatum, housed at the Downtown Aquarium, Denver, to determine the ability of zebra sharks to become desensitized to various stimuli associated with veterinary procedures. One male and 3 female sharks were trained for 12 weeks. As a result of PRT, all 4 zebra sharks were desensitized to staying within a closed holding tank off of the main exhibit, the presence of multiple trainers in the closed holding tank, and tactile stimulation. One of the 4 zebra sharks was also successfully desensitized to the presence of a stretcher being brought into the holding tank. All of these procedures are common in veterinary examinations, and it is hoped that desensitization to these stimuli will reduce the stress associated with examinations. The training accomplished has allowed for easier maintenance of the zebra sharks by the aquarium staff and an improvement in the care of the sharks. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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