A friend of mine and myself working together with Jerusalem Zoo

Back in May this year I was with a friend of mine in Israel. That time when loads of things happened to that country in a short time. I’ve never been there before and was a bit biased with everything I heard about this country. I’m ashamed that I could think that way because the country is one of a kind and a beautiful place to be. One of our friends living in Jerusalem took us to many different places. We basically went from north to south to west to east. We saw the mountains of Jordan and floated in the dead sea. We saw the old town of Jerusalem and looked over the fields of Nazaret. It was a an amazing trip.

At one moment in the trip a friend of ours picked us up in his car to go for dinner. At that same moment this bird caught my eye who seemed to have something in his mouth. I looked at it for a while but then I discovered what it was actually doing. It flew off but within seconds it was back again. The bird had grabbed a piece of bread what seemed pretty dried out. The bird sat on the side of a puddle and started to put the bread in the puddle to eat it after. Exactly how some of us drink Thea and eat biscuits soaked in Thea.

Gibbon eating from a net as part of enrichment

This makes me think very much because its cool how the animals do this but how did they figure out that dipping bread in a puddle makes it better eatable? It might be learned from others, maybe copying from other animals or what about copying from other species? or could it be plain coincidently? Flying with a chunk of bread being attacked by this seagull, part of the bread falls down into a puddle, the bird sees it, takes it and discovers its better! I guess we never know how it happened but for sure incredible to see how the bird does it.

This story keeps on chasing my mind when I think about the ability of animals. While explaining this story to one of our supervisors in the zoo. He tells me right after but Peter did you know that when we train our gibbons and reinforce them with leafeater (a type of pellet) they sometimes break from station to go to the water station dip it, eat it and come back? I was kind of surprised about this. Not that the animals are capable of doing this but more about the similarity it has to these birds.

Later that same week we had planned a training session with the big silverback gorilla to accept the vet coming close to him for a vet checkup and further testing of his heart. Mind you silverbacks seem to have heart problems more often than the females. We want to be proactive and teach him these types of behaviours such as stethoscope etc. While being at that department I decided to stay a bit longer. The park was open that day what means that the animals have to be on exhibit where they can be seen. In the morning they start cleaning the exhibit to be on time for the park to be open. They spread out a ton of different vegetables and lots of leaf eater pellets. Every day is different for the animals.

Afterwards they let the Chimpanzees on the exhibit. It’s fun to watch because you can see different personalities only by the way they think where the best food source might be coming from. The group consists of females who are around 50 to young animals who are about 1-4 years of age. I kept an eye on one of the younger animals who ran away to an area to be on its own. The young animal had his hands full with pellets and chunks of vegetables. One of the older ladies sat by a water station eating her part of the diet that she had found. The young animal ran to the water station and started dipping its food and ran away. Another animal who did the same as the bird that I saw in Jerusalem.

I find it interesting to see how animals come up with different ideas to solve their own problems or make situations better as they currently are. This is just one of them that I saw happening.

We all know that dolphins are a pretty intelligent specie. They play, they have great cognitive abilities, they kidnap females (dolphins are not nice animals!), they have sexual intercourse for pleasure and we can keep on going. Dolphins come up with various ways to hunt depending where they are situated. It has been observed that cetaceans blow bubble rings underwater. It happens in the wild and in human care. I’ve seen it happen in different ways and I’m still wondering how they do it. Yes I have tried lying on the bottom of a pool and see how it works. Its funny to do. Why would a dolphin do it? Is it a hunting strategy from the start and became a game over time? Most of the time I’ve seen them doing it with their blowhole but recently I’ve seen a female showing this behaviour very differently.

Her name is Pärla, a 5 year old female bottlenose dolphin who lives in a big social group of 9 at Kolmårdens Wildlife Park. She’s a playfull individual who enjoys the interactions between her and the trainers. If you have the right person she will give you everything she has. She is a very creative individual who comes with her own games pretty quickly.

This time she came up with something very creative, she would flick her fluke right by the surface to take some air what goes underwater into a bubble ring. I’ve never seen a dolphin doing it this way. Very cool to see. How did this happen? Did the she by accident make a bubble ring this way and tried to master is afterwards? Did she copy another behaviour and formed it into her own style? I didn’t see this behaviour from others in the same group yet. Maybe she discovered working with her fluke this way through being conditioned to do a horizontal fluke splash by the trainers. She decided to take it to another level on her own. We will never truly know.

The ability of animals have keeps on surprising me day by day. I have to say it helps me to be very creative in my current job and to see conditioning and animals very differently.


Peter is a passionate Animal Consultant that beside teaching you about Operant Conditioning makes sure you will go home motivated and inspired. Make sure you read his Bio!


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