In certain parts of the world conservation is at the forefront of all our minds. Recycling is a big part of life for the Swedish, they even invented plogging (picking up trash in nature, while jogging). We are increasingly focused on green energy and trying to do our part to help nature survive. Many of us do little things to try and help, bring our own bags to the supermarket, recycle food and drink packaging. I think it is important to do your part no matter how small, we all have an impact.

Conservation: It is the protection, preservation and careful management of natural resources

I highlight some important points in one of my blogs called “Can We Save the World by Training Animals?”. But did you know that we as animal trainers do a lot for conservation. Here are the top 5 reasons why animal training helps conservation.

1. Training to Educate

With the presentations keepers give, we try to educate the public about nature and why it is important for us to protect it. One of the most effective ways to share these conservation messages is by training our animals to help engage our audiences. People feel a stronger connection when they can get up close to these amazing animals. It’s about creating long lasting memories and inspiring the audience to do their part and to help protect animals and their habitats. A common behaviour you might have seen, is animals putting trash in bins or even demonstrating how plastic trash can effect wildlife. Many trainers are incredibly creative with trying to get the animals to pass on their message. It’s not only great for the animals to be trained, it’s even better if we educate at the same time.

2. Understand the Animals

I think we can all agree that training animals is a lot of fun. What is even better, is getting to understand the animals we work with. You might think, how does this help conservation? Well, if we understand the animals in our care, we gain a better understanding of why we should protect them. By understanding a species’ position in the food chain, we can explain to others why preserving them is so incredibly important to the entire ecosystem. This takes us right back to reason number one of why training helps conservation.

3. Connection to People

Kelsey Rubia – Resort wold Sentosa, Singapore

Good or bad, people tend to put a lot of human emotions on animals. Believe it or not this can work to our advantage. Just adding an animal’s name on its training pouch let people know this animal has a personality. This can build public interest in the individual animal and in our training. When we stimulate the public’s interest in animals, we have already begun affecting their behaviour. As we show the relationship we have with our animals people start to love these animals and when people start to love animals they want to protect them.

“If you can’t excite people about wildlife, how can you convince them to love, cherish, and protect our wildlife and the environment they live in?” Steve Irwin

4. Research

Photo credit is: K. A. Hansen, University of Southern Denmark

Recently, I visited a nearby university. Students were having their graduation day and had to present the projects they worked on. Most of these projects were done in our zoo, which was gratifying to see. Many of them had done some exciting research to discover more about our animals. Training animals to participate in these research projects allowed us to understand the animals more, especially how intelligent they are and what further cognitive abilities they may have.

Kirsten Anderson a researcher and animal training in Denmark has done some amazing work. Thanks to her work, we have discovered that Cormorands can hear underwater. With this information we can look at changing policies on boat traffic in the future. It also means that not only marine mammals are effected noise pollution but birds as well.

Hansen, K. A., Maxwell, A., Siebert, U., Larsen, O. N., & Wahlberg, M. (2017). Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) can detect auditory cues while diving. The Science of Nature104(5-6), 45.

The has been some cognitive research done with the dolphins at Dolphin Adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In the last couple of years they have brought the cognition of dolphins to a new level. With understanding the memory of a dolphin we get to know a lot more about how they work and what their intelligence level is. See the video for the presentation and the explanation.

5. Conservation Programmes

There are plenty of stories to talk about but I want to mention the most interesting one for me. The Ngulia project in Kenya, protecting rhinos. Read this blog!

Another example about the Iberian lynx. In the study they talk about using enrichment to get the animals ready for reintroduction. With enrichment we can recreate many different scenarios that are needed for the animals survival.

The Value of Enrichment to Reintroduction Success (Reading et al. 2013)

The zoos involved in this project where:

This project done was at San Diego Zoo Global.

Zoos have a significant role in the conservation of animals. Without zoos we wouldn’t have many of the species we still have today. Want to know more about zoo conservation? Visit thezooscientist.com/conservation-research 

Those are just 5 reasons, but there are plenty more why animal training is important for conservation. Keep sharing your stories with the general public and inspire the public to take care of our planet!

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