The time when an animal is not trained is as important as when we train our animals. Maybe it is even more important to give the animal a chance to practice behaviours which fit in their species appropriate repertoire. Animal training is enriching I think we can al agree to this. As explained in another article this is only true for cognitive enrichment. Animal training doesn’t solve all challenges we have with our animals in human care but will definitely help our animals to cope in their environment.

Enrichment helps the animal a lot more. When we have a strong enrichment program based on the needs of the species we take care off you are many steps ahead of the program. Which means a well established enrichment program might already solve 99 of the 100 challenges you have. Enrichment in turn can help you with your training. 

Control was established across species to have a better look at them and to excel in their care.

At Namsskogan Familie Park we did just that. Zoospensefull has been in Norway for a variety of times to help Namsskogan Familie Park. At first we focused on their training program where our goal was to get more control over the health of the animals. We wanted the animals to come to us and stay with us. This way we can directly have a closer look at their health. Over time our goal was to find out if the animals had the weight we hoped for trough previous observation. Body scoring is not always enough to find out if the animals health is good or bad. We need numbers to be able to determine if the animal is actually under weight, proper weight or over weight. We started from scratch and over time we were able to get 75% of the animals on the scale. 

The Eurasian Lynx

The lynx have an exhibit which is about 5 acres. 3 cats share the exhibit. The difficult part is the lynx wasn’t able to be shifted to another exhibit which meant that the keepers had to go into the exhibit for a proper exhibit check. Lynx can be very dangerous. It comes with quite some risks to step into an exhibit with dangerous animals. We have learned this from various zoos where keepers have been attacked. On a very early stage in our work at Namsskogan we decided that we shouldn’t go into the exhibit anymore. The challenge now was how do we check our exhibit. This is where an indoor area was created. 

An educational hut was already in place which was connected to the lynx exhibit. Ideal for the animals! We decided to give this to the animals by building a proper indoor training area. We created 4 different areas where we would be able to gate the animals into. At least for the future. This would allow the keepers to go into the exhibit to check their fences safely but as well to add more enrichment opportunities. 

Applying and Enrichment Program

Straw was added as bedding

The indoor area was adapted and training could start. Zoospensefull came back in November 2021 where they implemented a strong, detailed and focused on natural behaviour enrichment program. One of the categories in the enrichment program is senses. This is where we can add a variety of different perfumes, spices or even urine and feaces from hoofstock animals in their exhibit to trigger their olfactory sense. We did just that when we prepared the indoor exhibit. 

We wanted to use our time to help the team succeed in their goals. We had 2 weeks the time to do this.

One of Zoospensefulls team member Grant Kother has a huge amount of experience with creating great enrichment programs. He gave Namsskogan a variety of spices which he knew the animals would respond to. We added straw as bedding in the indoor enclosure to invite the lynx to find a comfortable sleeping place. We added curry spices because they seemed to respond to this well. We wanted to create an inviting environment for the lynx to be in which we succeeded with right away. The next day we discovered that they had slept inside. We saw the beds used. We brought more straw and this time used ginger instead of curry. We had the same outcome.

Conditioning the scale

This gave us a head start in our training. The indoor environment was very new to them. Due to the way we presented the indoor enclosure with the bedding and the gates being opened we didn’t have to train the lynx to come in comfortably anymore.

At the same time we had trained 2 out of 3 lynx to comfortable come to the trainers. We observed that the 3th lynx would be more comfortable when the other 2 are not around. Our focus therefore was the 2 lynx that had an effect on the 3th lynx. Their names, Marve a male and Ingun a female. Because they were pretty comfortable coming to us and staying in control we were already training them a target to excel in their training. This would help us with the training in the indoor facility.

Adding the straw with the spices seemed to work very well for these 2 because coming inside to find out that we wanted to train them inside was as easy as it sounds. All due to the fact that we had enriched the indoor enclosure for the lynx. Through enrichment we invited them to be inside on their own terms. Which allowed us to train them inside almost right away. A lot of approximations could be skipped. 

The next step was the scale. These lynx are very confident and curious which helped with the introduction of the scale. It only took 2 sessions to get them onto the scale in the indoor facility. This confirmed what we wanted to achieve in just 2 weeks time. The 3th lynx named Korse started to come closer as well which was the outcome of the other 2 coming inside.

A perfect example of when enrichment and animal training comes together.

Do you need help with an enrichment or training program? Don’t hesitate to contact us at info@zoospensefull.com

Categories: Trainer Talk

PeterGiljam

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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