Panda Updates- Monday, October 17
Positive reinforcement training is an incredibly important part of our jobs. To allow the giant pandas to participate in their own care, we work with them on a number of voluntary behaviors that allow us to see different parts of their bodies, have them move into different positions, or otherwise take a better look at them. One behavior that we spent a great bit of time on recently was for voluntary blood pressure readings. This is a behavior that involves us care team members focusing on the bear and their behavior while a member of our incredible Veterinary Team uses a portable blood pressure monitor to take the reading.
Initially, this behavior involves many steps, including having the panda reach their arm into a PVC sleeve so that we can safely access their forelimb, desensitizing the pandas to the blood pressure cuff being placed around their arm, and desensitizing them to the noise and pressure involved as it inflates. Once they are comfortable with all of this, we can ideally take actual readings of their blood pressure. This process can give us very useful information in monitoring their health. There is also not much known data out there on panda blood pressure in general, so it could be an important contribution to science at large. All of this comes without stress to the pandas. Each session is voluntary. They can choose not to participate if preferred, but if they do, they get some of their favorite diet items. A win for them and a win for us!
Keeper II, Mammals