Training Plans at the Zoo

Lehigh Valley Zoo Animal Care DepartmentOne of the duties of an animal keeper can have here, like many zoos and other animal facilities, is creating and implementing training plans with our animals in order to help our animals. These plans can help mentally and physiologically stimulate them (or provide them enrichment), as well as helping become more patient and calm around their keepers by helping create a bond through trust and can help create less-stressful veterinary visits for the animals.

I have currently been creating a training plan, from the ground up, for our two Dromedary camels, Leena and Baby that is starting its first stages. The plan started with taking time to thoroughly evaluate the natural history of Dromedary camels, getting some background history of both Leena and Baby, and learning their temperament through working with them, as well as training slowly through protected contact (through their enclosure’s fence) with having them learn simple behaviors and learn to work with and trust me as their trainer. Once this was done, it was time for me to create my current plan.

Now that those first steps went well, it is time to start the actual training plan. It will start with slow, but important process of me just socializing with them, free contact, with a secondary keeper nearby, keeping eyes on the situation in case anything gets too overwhelming for each camel. Hopefully, if this goes well, the next step with desensitizing each camel to my touch on their neck, preemptively for the future halter. Then will come the halter itself! I will work on desensitizing them to the halter’s presence then the hope is that, through coaxing and training, that they will be willing to put the halter on themselves and allow me to buckle it. This plan has the goal to be able to secure them so that veterinary care can be provided to them without or less stress, including applying safe, fly preventative during the summer, which both camels have never been a fan of in the past.

Thus, through hard work, patience and trust, I believe this training plan can be extremely beneficial to the lives of Leena and Baby here at our zoo, not only through less stress in their lives here, but also through engaging them mentally and physically.

Written by Sam Howell-Barie
Animal Keeper
Lehigh Valley Zoo | Schnecksville, PA

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