Category — Megan-Kate’s Animal Behaviors
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?!
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.
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 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 2 Comments
Many households in America cannot imagine their home without the four-legged member of their family. In a lot of cases, that member happens to be a dog. And while most dog owners take wonderful care of their dogs, many would be surprised to hear that their dogs would still benefit from and appreciate additional mental stimulation. If fun challenges are not provided for a dog, most will decide to create their own. And unfortunately, owners and dogs tend to disagree on what is classified “fun.” Many dogs want to naturally use their senses to hunt and forage for food and this simple instinct is commonly taken away from them because most pets tend to be fed out of bowls.
Contrary to popular belief, I personally think that no dog should be fed out of bowl (unless medically necessary).
How on earth do you feed your dog if you can’t use a bowl???
Here at the Cincinnati Zoo the amazing keepers spend much of their time trying to find creative ways of keeping our animals mentally and physically satisfied, through enrichment. This can be a very difficult task with some of our extremely intelligent animals, however, it’s also one of the most entertaining and satisfying parts of a keeper’s job.
Daily feeding time is one of the easiest ways to enrich our animals. Some animals will get their breakfast scattered or hidden throughout their enclosure, while others are given toys that they have to play with to get their breakfast to fall out. That being said, enrichment is not just for zoo animals – many people forget that they can enrich their pet’s life too!
“Chester”, our Andean spectacled bear, is a wonderful example of an animal that loves his puzzle feeder. Several days a week Chester’s favorite treats and breakfast items are given to him from inside a simple feeder toy. Solving the puzzle feeder can sometimes take him 45 minutes of constantly moving and thinking to get his breakfast. Chester uses his natural instincts to hunt and forage and this satisfies many of his desires - simply through taking one additional step to feed him.
When it comes to your pets at home you can do the same thing we do with Chester. You can feed your dog or cat from a puzzle toy. There are many that are wonderful, such as all of the Premier Pet Products, Starmark, and Kong to name a few. Place your pet’s dry kibble into the feeding toy and place the toy in whichever room you prefer them to eat in. I prefer it to be on a hard surface, so they don’t get kibble and saliva on the carpet. But, it is up to you.
Some toys can be difficult so it’s important that you start with a fairly easy toy, so your dog is rewarded (with food!) more often. Gradually, you can work up to a more difficult toy. This activity should take your dog 20-40 minutes of constantly moving and thinking before it is complete. If it’s easier than that, you should probably look at other toys or more unique ways to feed your dog (some ideas will be covered later on this blog).
If you need more ideas please feel free to comment and tell me about your issues/concerns. I hope you enjoy spending time with your pet and choosing to more thoroughly enrich their lives.
September 13, 2013 1 Comment
Two weeks ago I traveled to Dallas, TX, to pick up the Zoo’s newest addition to Africa! Walter is a spirited, 11-week-old warthog.
Walter is sweet and a little ornery… which is pretty adorable. He’ll be in the Zoo’s nursery for the next three weeks getting to know all of his keepers and handlers. Two to five people are scheduled to socialize, play with and even cuddle Walter every day. He loves to sleep in your lap, get belly rubs, and play ball.
Once Walter is out of the nursery he will be moved to the Africa interpretive animal area. There he will have a large stall, outdoor exercise yard and lots of daily interaction. Beyond that he will be walked throughout the zoo a minimum of three times a day, for a few different reasons. Primarily because it is imperative for swine species’ to be exercised a ton!
In the wild most swine will travel more than five miles a day in search of food and/or water. Without appropriate exercise, these highly intelligent animals will become destructive and unhappy. Not only that, swine travel in family groups called “sounders.” They are highly social. Because of this it is also imperative that Walter’s emotional needs are met. He will want to be out in the Zoo meeting new “family members” every day.
When you come to the Cincinnati Zoo next month, you might get to meet one of our new favorite animals, Walter the warthog.
August 23, 2013 1 Comment