In this podcast we are introduced to one of Animal Training Academies’ members Johnny May and we discuss fish training (target training a white sturgeon). White sturgeon are a large species of fish that can grow up to 20 feet or 6 meters in length. What I really like about this week’s training tidbit is that is that is provides a nice example of the universality of the application of positive reinforcement animal training.
All animals are constantly moving towards the things they want and away from the things they don’t. White sturgeon and other fish species are no different. If we pair their desirable behavior with positive reinforcement – then as with all animals – fish will learn to repeat those behaviors in the future. As Johnny describes well in this podcast episode the techniques he used to train his white sturgeon are the same techniques that we use at home with our pets, or with our zoo animals. Johnny facilitated the white sturgeons learning by using successive approximations or baby steps. He then trained the animal to voluntarily swim over a Stretcher. He utilized target training to achieve this (See video below). This is obviously good for the animal welfare, empowering for Johnny and his team, beneficial for the aquarium and great for visitor engagement. Well done Johnny!
FISH TRAINING – JOHNNY MAY.
Johnny began his career working at his local zoo in 2008 as a seasonal keeper. From there he worked, interned, and volunteered at a number of zoos, sanctuaries, veterinary clinics, aquariums, and wildlife rehabilitation centers. In 2013 he graduated for Mississippi State University with a degree in Animal and Dairy Science with a concentration in Veterinary Science. He is currently working towards the completion of a Master of Business Administration at the University of Memphis and has recently accepted a position at a public aquarium currently under construction in the United States.
During his time at one of the zoo hospitals he was volunteering at, he witnessed the benefits of training animals to voluntarily participate in their own routine health exams. It was these experiences that inspired him to attempt training what some might consider non-traditional species.