Keeper Stories – Thursday, Feb. 16
What a busy time! We’re always busy in the Program Animals Department, but we’re especially busy this week getting ready to host an international conference starting on Tuesday! The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE) hosts an annual conference to bring members together to share ideas in how to better provide stewardship for all the animals in our care. Their mission is “to promote best practices in the field of avian care, training and educational programming, and to inspire conservation of avian species and the natural world. Through conferences, publications, personal interactions and its website, IAATE fosters the exchange of information and skills that support the highest standards of managing birds for public programs and habitats.”
IAATE members include zoo and aquarium professionals, falconers, rehabilitators, educators and other interested parties. The community is open to sharing ideas, especially when it comes to breakthroughs in training, medical care and husbandry. This year, the conference is being held here in Atlanta, and our conference slogan is “Atlanta 2017: Where Talent Meets Inspiration.” Each year we send a keeper or two to attend the conference and they always come back with amazing ideas. One year keepers returned with ideas on how to revamp our intern program to increase learning opportunities for them. Another year we gained insight in training raptors for voluntary nail trims! We now have hawks that sit patiently while we use a rotary tool (a Dremel) to gently file their nails. We’ve also been inspired with new ways to incorporate guest experience into our presentations, and a few years ago we inspired other facilities to add “look-outs” to their raptor spaces to give them a better view across the Zoo! We can’t wait to see what this year brings.
In addition to all the cleaning that we’re doing to make sure everything is nice and shiny for our visitors, we are busy planning a slew of exciting events like an icebreaker where we get to showcase Atlanta’s amazing improv scene; a Zoo Day where we get to give visitors behind-the-scenes opportunities; and specially planned presentations and training demonstrations; and two amazing workshops where participants can learn and practice hands-on skills like raptor beak trimming and installing perches with unique properties for bird interaction. During the conference there will be presentations from veterinarians and bird trainers and additional evening workshops on enrichment, presentation skills, and writing educational programs based on birds! There is even a workshop before the conference starts to get people excited about learning how to be better trainers. It lasts an entire day to teach trainers about learning theory and the positive reinforcement training in particular.
We are so honored to have the opportunity to host this amazing organization and bring together avian trainers and educators from around the world! Keep an eye out for an upcoming #TakeoverTuesday where I’ll post photos from the conference and let you all know how it went!
Assistant Curator of Birds and Program Animals