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Time for training

Hi everyone! My name is Ryan, and I am going to talk a little bit about some of the training that is going on at the Zoo. Here at Zoo Atlanta, we spend a lot of time training the animals to participate in their own care. The behaviors we train the animals for have a purpose behind them and function to make their lives better. We train animals to shift into different areas so we can clean, step onto a scale so we can monitor their weights, and even to voluntarily allow us to draw blood or monitor their hearts, just to name a few behaviors.

In order to ensure that animal care team members have the necessary experience with training, the Zoo has levels of training that we must progress through that include classes and readings that teach information related to training. The goal of this program is to equip animal care professionals with the knowledge they can use to take what they learn and improve the lives of the animals they work with. To complete the training program, a keeper must train two new behaviors with an animal they choose. I am now working on this last step of the training levels and will hopefully be finishing up soon. Then I will be able to train more behaviors with many more animals!

I am currently working on training the kookaburra to fly to a perch that sits on a scale so we can weigh him regularly. In order to do this, I offer him the part of his diet that he likes the most (for him, it’s worms) during his training sessions. This type of training is known as positive reinforcement; he gets something he likes in return for doing the requested behavior. If he does what I am asking him to do, then he will get his worms, and if not, that’s okay and I will try again. He always has the choice to participate, and we never withhold food if he chooses not to participate. Not only does this behavior allow us to monitor his weight regularly, but it also provides a mental puzzle for him to solve. He must figure out what behavior I am asking him to do and then complete the task in order to get his food reward.
Ryan W.
Keeper I, Birds

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