School Starts Early For Lewis & Isla
School is still out for most of Scotland...but classes have started in earnest for two difficult pupils at Barcaldine, near Oban.

They are North American otters Lewis and Isla who took up residence in March at the Scottish SEA LIFE Sanctuary.
"Now they're properly settled in and feeling right at home we have started a training programme designed to benefit both otters and their human keepers," said SEA LIFE boss Alex Blackman.

"It makes the otters' lives more interesting and at the same time makes it safer to work with them and much easier to give them health checks or deliver any medical care they might one day need," he added.

Lewis and Isla have both received some training in the past, but have forgotten all they learned.
title In charge of their refresher course is 20-year-old Scarborough man Josh Saunders, and after a tricky start he is now making rapid progress.

"Initially they just charged round, occasionally trying to nip your ankles or knocking each other out of the way to get at their food," said Josh.

"To help change all that I use a short white stick with a blue cushioned end to it," he explained. "Like anything new they soon sniffed the blue end to inspect it and when they did I rewarded them with food."
Pretty soon, Lewis and Isla were allowing Josh to direct them wherever he wanted them to go...just for the chance to nose that stick and receive a tasty morsel

Whereas before they would both stand on the top of the same rock jostling each other at feeding each will go to his or her own rock.
"That means we can give both a proper inspection to check for any signs of injury or infection very easily," said Josh.

"It certainly makes working with them a lot easier, but what's more rewarding than that is the visible improvement in their general well being.

"They really seem to enjoy every session, and become brighter and more alert every day."

Josh is confident that by the time Scottish schoolchildren return to their classes this week, Lewis and Isla will already have graduated.
Issued by The Scottish SEA LIFE Sanctuary
For more details, please contact Alex Blackman on 01631 720386
Press Release date: 17th August 2009

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