Friday, October 05, 2012
What Does It Take to Train Dangerous Animals at Edinburgh Zoo?
It is a two-man job that takes skill, patience and nerves of steel. Face-to-face with a two-tonne beast, two keepers are about to attempt what you might consider something of a reckless escapade – giving a rhino a check-up armed with nothing more than his favourite food and a pair of calm voices...For most species, training starts from the same crucial point. Karen, who has built up a relationship with Bertus and Samir, says: “Bertus, who came from Rotterdam and Samir, from Stuttgart, have been with us for about four years. “We use positive reinforcement to teach them how to do things. “They learn how to touch a particular target, for which they are rewarded with food. Every time they do this correctly, we have a clicker. That becomes a noise that they recognise, so they know they have got it right. “By teaching them to stand still, we are able to carry out an all-over body check. We have a look at their skin, we look in the eyes and ears. “It saves the vet from having to sedate them, which at £500 is very expensive and because the rhinos are large animals, it can put pressure on their heart and lungs.” more