Friday, November 21, 2014

The Human Touch: New Research Suggests Some Animals Prefer Human Connections

What do animals really want? A new study from the University of Florida suggests it might be human contact, at least in the case of some Galapagos tortoises ... The findings are particularly important for those who work with animals in captivity every day -- zookeepers, trainers and students -- and strive to provide the best experience for them ... In the experiment, three tortoises at the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo in Gainesville named Larry, Moe and Curly, were given four choices of keeper interaction: playing with a large rubber ball or under a water sprinkler, or having their shells scrubbed or necks rubbed. The zookeepers had used all of these enrichments at least twice a month for several years ... “Not only did they prefer keeper interaction overall compared to the traditional forms of enrichment,” Mehrkam said, “but the individual tortoises had preferences for the kind of interaction they wanted. Larry and Curly like having their necks rubbed. Moe liked the shell scrubbing" ... Both Dorey and Mehrkam use behavior analysis as the foundation of their research. This methodology, used primarily in human study, focuses specifically on behaviors and what factors or situations influence them rather than looking at root causes. The team also is studying aggression in dogs around guarding behaviors in a paper to be submitted for publication soon. more

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