​​​2 Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem
Episode 12: Training
29 June 2018
Animal training in zoos & wildlife sanctuaries isn't about performing tricks for an audience: it's about making the animals' lives healthier, happier, and safer.

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JENNY>> Welcome to Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, sponsored by the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. Now here’s your host, Gary Robson:
LES>> Good morning, Gary. How are you doing?

GARY>> Good morning, Les. Doing fine!

LES>> So we've got what on the wildlife list for today?

GARY>> Today we're going to talk about something of a secret in the zoo and wildlife sanctuary and breeding center agenda, and that's training. It's been something that nobody really wants to talk about because it's associated with circus tricks and animal shows and this kind of stuff, and people don't think of it as something that's actually good for the animal.

LES>> Gives them a chance to stretch their legs, maybe?

GARY>> Well, that actually ties back to four weeks or so ago when we were talking about behavioral enrichment or environmental enrichment, but the big reason is — have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a vet going in to do a quick checkup on, let's say a bear ?

LES>> Ah!

GARY>> You're not going to go in there and say, "hey, roll over and let me check your belly!"

LES>> "Open up your mouth and say ah!"

GARY>> Tell the mountain lion, "show me your teeth!" And that's the kind of training that actually takes place behind the scenes at zoos and sanctuaries. For example, Sacagawea, a mountain lion at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, here in Red Lodge, is currently being trained to show different parts of her to the keeper when he's feeding her, so that he can come up and say, "paw," and she'll put a paw up on the fence so he can check to make sure there's no bad stuff stuck in there, no scars, scratches, scrapes, bloody marks.

And the large animals, the dangerous animals, can be taught to come over to the fence and do things to help make sure that they're healthy and safe because, really, to get a vet in to look at one of the big predators requires sedating the animal. 

LES>> Which is not good.

GARY>> It's not good. Especially when they're getting older. Just like with people, you want to avoid that sedation.

LES>> That's the last thing you want to do.

GARY>> And so it helps a lot to be able to check on them on a regular basis without having to go through that rather traumatic experience for them. The training also gives them a feeling of satisfaction. When they're doing things it helps keep their brain healthy and going.

LES>> Just like kids and adults alike.

GARY>> Exactly. And we'll actually be able to see a bit of that going on this Saturday at the Wildlife Jamboree at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. 

LES>> Where T.J. is going to be going with our granddaughter.

GARY>> We build up to this one all year long. It's not just one of those fundraisers where everbody comes in and gets begged for money. This is more of a celebration that we do every year. It's reduced admission, just five dollars or if you're a member or a kid 12 and under it's free. We'll have face painting and hamburgers and hotdogs and scheduled wildlife feedings where you get to watch the animals eat. 

LES>> When they're given the command, they'll maybe raise a paw as well?

GARY>> It could just be!

LES>> Okay. Well, Gary, always interesting. Of course, Gary's the Education Director at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. We'll see you at Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary this Saturday. 

GARY>> See you at the Jamboree and talk to you next Wednesday morning.

JENNY>> Thanks for joining us for Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, sponsored by the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge, Montana. This podcast updates every Friday on iTunes , YellowstoneEcosystem.com , and the Sanctuary’s website, YellowstoneWildlifeSanctuary.org.

Thanks to our recording partners at FM99: the Mountain , where you can hear this show live every Wednesday at 8:22 a.m.

I’m your announcer, Jenny Van Ooyen, and I hope you’ll join me next week for another episode of Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem!
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