Panda Updates – Monday, December 23
One of my favorite things about being a member of the Panda Care Team is seeing the different relationships that the pandas have with each of their keepers. This is the most evident during training sessions. Training sessions at Zoo Atlanta are always voluntary for the animals and are based on positive reinforcement. This means that the pandas always have the choice to participate, and they know if they do, they receive a reward. When primary keepers have a training session with the pandas, the training sessions are often textbook. The pandas do exactly what is asked when it is asked. Alternately, when other keepers work in pandas, we tend to be treated as “substitute teachers” by the pandas. Pandas are smart and opportunistic and will take any opportunity to test keepers to get maximum food for minimal effort. This means that non-primary keepers need to be on our toes during training sessions to make sure the pandas offer behaviors correctly for our safety. I also enjoy watching new team members training with the bears. Training is a great opportunity to build a relationship with the pandas. As the pandas become comfortable training with the newer keepers, you can see some of the social dynamics between caregiver and panda. It’s pretty awesome and special to be a part of.
Keeper II, Mammals