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Klyde’s Crate Training Success!

Klyde’s crate training was a success!  He walked right in this morning and is now safely on his way to Sedgwick County Zoo.

Walked in like a champ!

Walked in like a champ!

Klyde’s two main keepers, Marjorie and Randy, will be accompanying him on the drive to his new home, where he will get to meet his new girlfriend and keepers.  They are not willing to let him go it alone.  They will also have the opportunity to teach the keepers that will be working with him all of his behaviors and favorite foods, toys, and treats.  Even though this is going to be a HUGE transition, Marge and Randy are making it as smooth going as possible.


Randy helps Klyde cool off.

Last week  had ups and downs for Klyde and the staff in the Veldt.  Klyde went from many good days in a row to having a few days that set him back.  When an animal get set back, you have to return to the stage that they are willing to work with you and then move forward again.  Usually the progress is a faster progress than the first time, at least that’s what most trainers bank on!

Marjorie and Klyde

Marjorie and Klyde

Little things could have set Klyde back, from someone starting a blower on the path way below him, as he first enters the crate in the morning, to a cart driving by.  New noises, smells, and sometimes the unknown will make an animal decide that something it has been doing reliably for days is no longer alright.  When you are training animals, patience is a virtue and a requirement.


What a handsome boy!


When Marge let me know that Klyde was starting to regress, we talked about the pros and cons of how to move forward.  We decided to go back to plan A and back to when he was successfully coming in and comfortably staying in.  Instead of adding people to the outside making noise around the crate, something he will have to deal with, once he is in the crate for his move, we decided it would be more beneficial to get him used to someone standing on top of the crate, as this will be imperative to shutting the back door of his crate.

Many days were spent getting Klyde comfortable again with coming in, including allowing him access at night.  Once he was back on track we added a piece of plywood to the top of his enclosure so someone could stand on it, and not totally scare him.  Then we had one keeper go up top, before Klyde had access to the crate area, and a second keeper called him in.  This way Klyde was able to get used to hearing a voice from above him as well.

All of this work resulted in a smooth transition into the crate.  Bye Klyde!  We will miss you.

May 20, 2013   3 Comments

Klyde’s Crate Training Update

Klyde has access to his crate every morning.

Klyde has access to his crate every morning.

Klyde’s crate conditioning is going very well!  Since my previous post, keepers have continued to work with him daily.  To start, each evening they would close off access into the crate, giving Klyde a break from seeing it through the night.  Then, in the morning, they would re-open it and he would find it contained his breakfast and extra treats.   Each day keepers moved more and more of his breakfast into the crate, creating an inviting space that allowed Klyde to feel comfortable and confident.  After several days, everyone felt they were at a point when no food needed to be offered in his other stalls except for in his crate.  This was no issue for Klyde, as every crate experience he has had thus far has been very positive.  He had no problem with his new designated feeding area.  Each morning the food would appear an inch further back in the crate, from the day before.  And every day, Klyde never even thought twice about his advancement into the crate.

Margie feed Klyde in the crate.

Marjorie feeds Klyde in the crate.

By day nine, keeper Marjorie was able to stand outside the crate, toward the front and encourage him to come in as she tossed treats into his food pile to make every inch of progress as smooth as possible.  Days 10 and 11 were breakthrough days for Klyde’s progress – he decided that his crate was  really positive place to be and confidently walked in until he had all four feet in the crate!  He was still not quite close enough to hand feed but having all four feet in, making that step up into the crate was a HUGE progression and his keepers were thrilled.  Later on day 11 of training Marjorie decided to try one more quick session and attempted to get Klyde to walk in far enough to hand feed.  He finally did it!!  Marjorie was able to reach his lip and give him some of his favorite cookies for entering that far.


Box lunch?

We are all so excited about Klyde’s progress moving forward!  In the first 11 days of training it has gone far better than ever expected, but that’s what happens when keepers and animals have such a wonderful and positive relationship!  Klyde is willing and wanting to work with his keepers and his keepers are allowing him to move at his comfort level… setting him up for success is the most important part of training!

May 8, 2013   No Comments

Getting Ready For Summer With New Black Rhino Seyia!

At the end of last summer I wrote about training Klyde, our male black Rhino, to happily enter a crate, so he could travel to his new home and hopefully produce a bouncing baby rhino calf.

But when Klyde left he also left us with an empty exhibit and a hole in our heart.  He would come down to our encounter area each and every day allowing visitors to have an up close experience, watching him do his training behaviors. All could appreciate how strong and intelligent he was, how all 3,450lbs of him moved effortlessly, and how truly magnificent he was.  He was after all the mascot of the zoo, the rhino in our logo, who could ever fill this void or even come close to replacing him?!


Black rhino Seyia target training.

Enter Seyia!  This three year old adolescent and southern bell came to us from her birth zoo in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Leaving her mom and the only keepers she has ever known, this brave little lady arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in late Aug of 2013.  In a few short weeks she went from being timid and little nervous, of all that was new, to her to relishing her keepers and exhibit.  When she found the mud wallow for the first time you could physically see the joy and excitement on her face.

Seyia enjoying the mud

Seyia enjoying the mud

Adjustment period flew by for her and quickly she was ready to learn more than just her exhibit and keepers.  She was ready to start training!  Marjorie, her main keeper, had a list for us to begin training from.  The first was for Seyia to lean her body against the poles of her enclosure, so she could be bathed, skin checked and oiled, and just for an overall good evaluation of her health.  We couldn’t believe how quickly she caught on to asking her to move over.  Then we added asking her to place her front foot on a block so we could begin doing foot care, she figured this out rapidly too!  The first time the “light bulb” went on, she lifted her foot so high we were laughing about her overzealous nature to please. The next hurdle was teaching her to lie down. Imagine asking a 2,400 lb animal to place herself in the most vulnerable position, in front of hundreds of visitors. She is now doing this reliably out on exhibit during her training sessions!

Smart Seyia has mastered the "lie down" behavior.

Smart Seyia has mastered the “lie down” behavior.

Smart is not all Seyia has going for her, she is also very sweet natured and craves attention from her keepers.  So much so she began calling to them, something black rhino’s are NOT known to do.  Marjorie and I decided it would be an incredible experience for patrons to be able to hear this animal actually make a sound.  So we began capturing the behavior and now she will “speak” on command.  She is still a little unsure how loud we want her be outside, but inside she is quite happy to be loud all day!  Her vocal call is such a different sound.  Some compare it to a whale, others to a bird, and some say it sounds like a child’s kazoo.  The best part is this spring and summer you will be able to hear her, see her, and watch her train with Marjorie in her exhibit!

April 7, 2014   3 Comments