Animal Care Staff use positive reinforcement techniques to shape animal behaviors that improve daily care. One example of a practical behavior is “shifting,” or moving the animals on or off exhibit so that they are out for guests to observe. Several animals in the collection voluntarily participate in advanced medical training; for example they may present various body parts for veterinary examinations and even permit voluntary medical procedures. These procedures may include nail trims (similar to pets at home) on species ranging from monitor lizards to bears, voluntary injections or blood draws (annual vaccinations, medical treatment of conditions like diabetes), ultrasounds and even superficial wound treatment. Unlike with pets at home, staff cannot go into enclosures with most animals for safety reasons. These advanced techniques permit staff to interact with the animals in rewarding situations and improve our ability to care for the collection. Training for daily care is cognitively stimulating as it promotes thinking and social interaction and builds trust between the animals and their caregivers.
Animal training and enrichment are part of routine daily animal care around the Zoo. The Behavioral Husbandry department’s goal and philosophy are to constantly evolve and improve our resources and management techniques to provide the animals with world class care and provide our valued visitors the best Zoo experience possible.