Today was what is rapidly becoming a rarity at the safari, a quiet day. No massive tour groups wandering around behind the scenes or clogging up space in front of the exhibits. No family gatherings, weddings, or corporate events in the gardens by the giraffes. Just peace and quiet, which was really nice and something that I think we all needed. I worked with the cats most of the morning cleaning out their enclosures and prepping food for the second round walk through when one of our keepers, Gallia, asked if I wanted to see an elephant training session. Gallia is one of two animal trainers at the safari and works with nearly all of the animals in the collection.
Gallia and I talk extensively about training methods, tips, suggestions, processes, and development. I learned everything I know about training animals from Professor Sarah Cunningham’s Animal Training class which I took as a sophomore at Unity College. Of course I jumped at the chance to see training of the largest land animal on the planet!
Gallia led me over to the elephant enclosures and spent the next hour training each of our elephants, individually, to perform a variety of behaviors. These behaviors include: open mouth, present each foot for cleaning, target, touch, hold, and station. It was really amazing to see the methods that I learned in school and practiced on dogs while in class, applied to elephants.
After the session was over, Gallia asked for my feedback and if I had any suggestions to make the training better. I was stunned that she wanted my opinion and told her the areas and behaviors that I thought needed work or improvement. My internship just keeps getting better and better.
Next week should be even better. We have to do an ultrasound on one of our female tapirs to see if she is pregnant. We are keeping our fingers crossed.
Until next time.