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I’m working, I swear …

Hello from the Dominican Republic. Odds are I am sitting in a large conference hall listening to all the wonderful work of bird trainers and educators from all over the planet. Or, if we are on break, I may be sitting on the beach or snorkeling.

I am currently at the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators conference being hosted in the Dominican Republic this year. I am giving a talk on Zoo Atlanta’s progress with free choice and control training in our free flighted bird show. That is not what this blog is about, however. While animal care professionals are spending the majority of our time caring for our animals, we also travel around the world to learn and even share new techniques and progress in the animal care field.

Zoo Atlanta is a leading institution in many aspects of animal care. From veterinary procedures and training with our great apes, cutting-edge research in our Herpetology Department, to progressive training techniques in our bird show, we are always seeking to improve and share in our successes and improvement. As part of our job, we get the opportunity to participate and travel to conferences such as this to inform the world about what we are doing and at the same time learning about what others are doing.

In my five years at the Zoo, I have given talks four in different states and now two different countries outside of the U.S. My talks encompass less than 1% of the total presentations given by the team at Zoo Atlanta annually. We make it a priority to get out there and share information. And sometimes individuals get lucky enough to travel to beautiful locations like this. It’s a win-win in my biased opinion as I sleep listening to the crashing of waves outside my hotel window.

Just a quick overview of this week’s presentation. I am presenting on free choice and control training. What this means is that we are giving the birds in our presentations even more choice and control over their lives than before. This includes choice in where they want to spend their time while not in shows, what they want to see throughout the day, what they want to do while out training with us, and even choosing whether or not to participate in their own veterinary care. The idea is that if we give them the power to choose, they are more comfortable and much happier. We have data supporting these ideas already, and all of these birds are utilizing these concepts to the fullest. It is an amazing thing to see!

Okay, well I have to go re-apply sunscreen, I mean get more paper for taking notes! Yeah that’s it. See all of you when I get back!
Justin E.
Lead Keeper, Ambassador Animals

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl