More from Myrtle the Turtle

And this was really groundbreaking in terms of training a sea turtle, because she had to think about it. And you’d see her go like,  “no…no…that’s not it…” and come back. When she first started learning, she would just go hit everything, all three things, which was really very funny for us. But then, she got it. She clicked and she realized that “I’m only going to a speaker if there’s a sound, and if there isn’t and if its just a light, then…” She had to make this choice, which was a very sophisticated decision for a sea turtle to make.

MRB: You don’t usually think of a turtle actively processing…

SFC: She was the perfect candidate for this study, because she’s unique. This is going to sound silly, but she doesn’t really behave like a reptile. She seems to be genuinely interested in things that we’re doing, even when we don’t have food. Almost to the point of being nosy about everything that goes on in the tank. She’s right underfoot or I should say, right underflipper. She loves having her back scratched. I’ve had her fall asleep in my lap while I’ve been patting her head, or she’ll look up at you. If you’re working on something, because we have to do some maintenance sometimes in there, she wants to know what the tools are. She touches things and makes eye contact…its very, very, unusual behavior for a reptile. I love her. She’s my favorite in the tank.

But we’re so used to her now, that we get into almost little arguments with Myrtle sometimes. Because she is always underfoot, and sometimes it’s really fun and funny, and other times when you’re really busy and you have a really important task at hand, you’re like, “Myrtle! Myrtle! Get out of here! This does not concern you!” Whenever we’re at the platform, she’s hanging all over us, trying to see what’s on the platform, around the platform, and I’m constantly pushing her away. She has her own platform where she eats, and our hopes were, “Okay, we’re going to convince her that nothing good is going to happen at the dive platform, all the good things happen at your platform.” Well, she gets that she eats at that platform, but that doesn’t mean that whenever she’s not eating there, that she’s not going to come over and find out what’s going on over here. You know what I mean, it didn’t work. She’s a unique one.

MRB: I’ve heard that you guys have done promotional ads and film shoots at night, after hours so you don’t have visitors running around. And while a cameraman is in the water trying to shoot something else, the diver in the water is just trying to distract Myrtle, and you’ve got 90 seconds before Myrtle wonders, “What’s he doing over there?” and tries to get in the shot…