Panda Updates – Friday, October 6
Most of the animals in our care are trained for a number of behaviors depending on needs of the animal. At the Zoo we follow the principles of positive reinforcement, by which the individual being trained is reinforced for the behaviors that the trainer has asked for. The giant panda cubs have begun learning some of the more basic behaviors that the adults know. The most important step for them right now is to “learn how to learn.” They are working on understanding that we are asking them to do something, they are going to hear a whistle (bridge) when they do it, and they are going to get a leafeater biscuit (reward) for it. As they begin to learn and understand that, we can begin to work on more complex behaviors that will help us better care for them. For example, the adults both voluntarily allow us to take blood from their arms in exchange for leafeater biscuits and produce; that way we can regularly monitor their blood for any changes. We can ask them to present their shoulders so we can give them their yearly vaccinations. We can ask Lun Lun to lie on her back and present her belly for ultrasounds at times when we are on the lookout for a pregnancy. All of that and more with some food, some patience, and good timing on the bridge (whistle). The cubs have a long way to go, but they are on their way.
Keeper II, Mammals