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Category — Megan-Kate’s Animal Behaviors

Listening To Our Animals


With Joseph in the cougar exhibit.

As an animal trainer or even a pet owner the most important thing you can do with your animal is to listen to them. I don’t mean physically having the ability to listen to them, but rather your willingness to sit, watch, and listen. In my blog post last week it was very clear that listening to an animal I work with can be imperative – it can save your life. Like listening to Makine, my rehab Java Macaque. The keepers and staff at the Cincinnati Zoo also listen to and know their animals. A clear example of keepers knowing their animals and listening to them is found in the story of the design of the Zoo’s cougar exhibit.


Joseph as a cub.

When I was helping to raise the cougars, “Joseph” and “Tecumseh,” we had a strict schedule of exercise, enrichment, training, and play. Each day we would go for multiple walks, exercise them in the Cheetah Encounter yard, play with them, and even nap with them. We had to build a very strong bond with these animals so they could be transferred to their new enclosure and feel safe and secure. The only way to do this was to spend the time with them so even if they were worried they would trust their trainers and look to them for guidance. We wanted them to know if we weren’t worried about something, they didn’t need to be either. The only way to get that response and trust from them was to spend every day, all day, with them. Rough job, I know. [Read more →]

March 22, 2013   No Comments

My Smart and Loyal Macaque

Before moving to Cincinnati two years ago, I lived in many places and worked with a wide variety of animals.  A quick snapshot at the past 12 years looks something like this… two years in Thailand and Myanmar, short working session in Sydney, Australia, 4 years in three different areas of southern California, 3 years in Portland, Oregon, 8 months, in Reno Nevada, 8 months, in Gainesville, Florida, a few random months in Tacoma, Washington, and now more than two years in Cincinnati.

With Makine in Myanmar

With Makine in Myanmar

Living and working in all these amazing places I have some pretty interesting stories of courage, scary moments, and certainly a few experiences I will never forget.  One of those in particular comes to mind and I thought you might enjoy hearing about the time my 1-year-old Java Macaque saved my life.  It’s not very often you hear those words out of anyone’s mouth.
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March 15, 2013   5 Comments

The Language of Training

Some animals I work with aren’t exactly stellar students.  If trainers could choose their pupils, they would be animals that have the ability and excel at problem solving.  Those that don’t fear change and will ask questions.  The animals with the ability to do that in their daily life are usually the hunters of the world.  Those that have to be able to look at a situation and decide what is the best tactic to and timing to “win.”  Most animals that are predators use problem solving skills everyday.  It’s the ability and desire to figure out the best scenario to get the food that makes predators much easier animals to train, generally speaking.

Giraffe exhibiting "flight" behavior.

What makes prey animals more difficult to train?  I would put the prey animals in flight and family categories. [Read more →]

March 8, 2013   2 Comments