The training must go on
To say it’s been a weird year is an understatement. In March, just as we would normally be gearing up for shows during the busy Spring Break week, our presentations were cancelled – only days before the Zoo had to close for the next two months. It was a little strange for the members of the Ambassador Animals Team, who spend a significant amount of their time speaking with guests, to have no guests to speak with.
With the extra time, the team had more time for projects and training. One such training task that I took on was with Lupe, our toco toucan. Lupe does a volunteer behavior with the audience, where a few lucky guests can hold a cup with some fruit pieces in it, and Lupe will fly from guest to guest, taking the fruit out of each cup. Unfortunately, this is a bit more challenging to do with our younger guests, so I decided to train a behavior just for them!
With this new behavior, one volunteer will hold a bowl with a ball, and the other will hold a bucket, next to perches at opposite ends of our stage. Lupe will take the ball from the bowl, fly over to the bucket, and drop it in. It is natural for toucans to allofeed (pass food to another bird) during courtship. This behavior mimics this a little, although Lupe is carrying a ball instead of food, and “feeding” a bucket instead of a bird.
We don’t know when it will be safe to have volunteer segments like this in our shows again, but when that time comes, we hope our younger guests will enjoy this opportunity to meet a toucan up close and personal!
Senior Keeper, Ambassador Animals