Panda Updates – Friday, October 8
I have recently been working with the giant pandas on blood draw training. All four of the giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta participate in training to obtain voluntary blood draws. We have a custom-made sleeve insert that can attach to the mesh in some of the dens behind the scenes. In this sleeve, the pandas are able to place their arm into a PVC “cuff” and hold onto a handle with their paw (thanks to their pseudothumbs!).
We are able to use positive reinforcement to give them some of their favorite treats, leafeater biscuits and various produce, while they hold their arm in the sleeve and remain still, and members of the Zoo’s Veterinary Team draw blood. This entire process is completely voluntary, and if the pandas do not feel like participating, they don’t have to. However, they are generally very eager to participate for some treats. We do not actually use a needle or draw blood every time, as many of these sessions are simply for practice.
Because of the training and practice sessions that we do, they know what to expect with this behavior when the time does come to actually draw blood, and it is not a scary thing. This training is incredibly useful because if we ever need to run any tests with blood samples, we are able to get them easily and with minimal stress to the bears. The training the pandas participate in never ceases to amaze me. This is not a new behavior for them, but it is a new one for me to work with them on. Even though I have not done this behavior much with them, they have all participated like rockstars!
Keeper I, Mammals
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