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Abstract: The use of technology in laboratory and zoological settings has provided opportunities for advancement of cognition research as well as cognitive enrichment in a variety of species. Such systems have been successfully created for nonhuman primates and introduced to other anatomically and physiologically diverse species such as bears and tortoises. However, such systems have yet to be used with frequency in aquatic species given the challenge of incorporating accessible technology in such a setting. Herein, we report the successful creation and implementation of a novel manipulatable computerized system with California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) housed in outdoor sea pens. The Enclosure Video Enrichment (EVE) system was created and provided to three adult male sea lions living at the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program. The interface was modified from those used with other species to accommodate the anatomical and physiological differences of the study subjects. Training procedures were adapted from those successfully used with nonhuman primates to emphasize successive learning approximations. Each of the sea lions introduced to EVE successfully learned to engage with the system at differing rates over the course of a year and a half. While each showed significant differences in interaction style (e.g., number of button presses), all were able to achieve the same criterion for acquisition. This system is the first recorded success in providing a technological means to test cognition in California sea lions through an animal-manipulated interface and has the potential to function as a form of cognitive enrichment in this species.
Key Words: computer task, cognition, marine mammal, cognitive enrichment, California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Page Numbers: 73-86