Feeding - Self-activated feeders -
The study then discusses various different methods of feeding enrichment, the first of these being self-activated feeders. This idea evolves around an electronic feeder which could be designed to be activated by an orca visiting a number of ‘trigger’ locations either underwater or above.
For example, a series of haul-out locations around the pool could be fitted with simple motion detector beams. When a beam has been broken by the whale hauling itself out a set number of times, the feeder would be activated to release food. Each haul-out location could be programmed with different trigger rates, so that each location requires a different number of visits before food is released. This could be changed periodically to provide a more stimulating task.
Only one orca in captivity is an Argentinian transient (shown above) - meaning that only one orca in captivity would naturally haul-out onto a surface to catch food. It would, therefore, be preferable for the majority of captive orcas, to release food from underwater locations at the bottom of the pool. However, using a variety of locations above and below water would prevent possible outbursts of aggression due to competition for feeders.
The time of the day the feeders operate could also be taken into consideration. Some feeding devices could be set to operate only at night-time, to keep the animals occupied when the facility is closed and to encourage the whales to use their echolocation during darkness.
Photo: Mundo Marino