Animal Diaries Archive
11 April 2008
Our conditioning and training work with our animals forms an important part of our day, and really helps our animals get out and about in the Zoo. There are many different forms of training, from target training, clicker training to conditioning, just to name a few. The one common goal they all have is to teach a specific response to specific conditions or stimuli. The key to successful training is to develop a good trusting relationship with all of our animals, to take it slow and always be consistent. This enables us to expose our animals to all sorts of different environments, events, strange noises and objects. Imagine a 600 kg camel running into our trio of furry friends pictured here with Teela for the first time? With a little time and patience these guys are all best of friends and Teela can hardly contain her excitement when Kahn comes to visit!
Training and conditioning for medical procedures or veterinary examinations is very important because it puts less stress on our animals when they do need to seek medical attention. Teela used to have a phobia of needles; I am sure a few of us can relate to this one… Trying to keep calm a camel that does not want a needle is no easy feat. But once again, with some time, patience, consistency and a good rapport we were able to turn this situation around. Believe it or not, teaching Teela to accept a needle took much the same sort of procedure as teaching her to make friends with our costume characters! Gradually exposing her to these unusual (or scary!) situations, using lots of friendly faces and treats to encourage her along the way, meant that we could always create a positive experience to work Teela through any uncertainty. Now Teela can have routine injections without so much as a flinch, and is completely calm while having a pat from a six foot tall tiger in uniform!
So next time your in the zoo, be sure to keep an eye out for Teela and her entourage of colourful characters, you never know where they are likely to pop up!