Posts Tagged ‘training’

by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

Table time

September 22nd, 2013

The lemurs get front-lined every month, just like your dog at home. For the Ring Tailed Lemurs, I have goals of making this a trained behavior so that application goes smoothly. Right now it’s more like a “sneak attack” approach. So I began by teaching them the behavior- Wall. What I expected from them was to hop onto a stool and place both hands on the wall. To train this behavior,  I started with stool- they already have a Jump behavior, so that was no problem. Next, I pointed to the wall, they are used to Left Hand, Right Hand so often when they see my finger pointing they try to grab it. I would pull my hand back a bit,  leaving them touching the wall. I taped a square onto the wall and that is ultimately where I want their hands to be placed.

The stool is kinda low and the lemurs do not enjoy people leaning over them. So I brought a table into their stall. When they are on the table we are closer in height and I don’t need to lean over them. Now we are working on liking the table. (pictures below)

Hopefully this will eventually turn into a great husbandry behavior and make applying front-line easier for both lemurs and keepers.

Satyrus had to reposition for better treat access

My favorite picture. Cassandra is obviously not bothered by her son’s tail

 

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

It’s the Little Things

February 23rd, 2013

Our Jersey steer, Max, is a picky eater. Unlike most bovine, which will eat anything you hand them, Max really only eats his hay and steer chow (breakfast cereal for cattle). Keepers Kent and Jill and I have been working extra hard since last summer to sneak extra pieces of training foods into his giant mouth, just to get him to try something new.

For training reasons, it’s a good idea for Max to learn to eat foods that are more portable than an armload of hay. We’ve been the most successful thus far with dried fruits, but only if Max is in the mood. Usually, Max takes a tiny nibble of the new treat and turns his nose up at it, if he tries it at all. The rest of the farmyard animals (pigs and Ducky, included!) are happy to much down a “cookie” that’s specially made for farm animals, while Max fires them back out of his mouth covered in steer spit without even tasting them.

Until recently, anyway. Here’s a short, shaky cell phone video of Max FINALLY trying (and liking) a farmyard cookie…or three.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Please don’t feed the animals anything! Even if it seems harmless, like loose hay off the ground or grass or leaves, could potentially make them very ill. Leave feeding the animals to us keepers, it’s the one part of our job that doesn’t involve cleaning poop!

If you want to see what our animals eat up close, become a Museum of Life and Science member and sign up for a Bears Up Close or a Behind the Scenes Tour, they’re wicked awesome!

 

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by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

Red Ruffed Lemur Training

December 21st, 2012

I recently mentioned we’re now working on crate training the red ruffed lemurs. It’s been quite awhile since they have worked on this behavior. The last couple days have been very successful. All three lemurs have gone all the way into their crates. :)

This is just the beginning so check back soon for updates.

Keeper Marilyn and I training the three red ruffed lemurs

 

Iris going into the crate

  

Iris is going into the top crate at the same time that Jethys is going into the bottom crate.

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by , Behavior Consultant
I've been working with the museum since 2009 as a Behavior Management Consultant. I work with keepers and staff to gain the voluntary cooperation of the animals in their own care through operant conditioning.
You can find me teaching at Davidson County Community College, or through my business website Animalworksconsulting.com.

A Training Quiz!

November 14th, 2012

In the tradition of Sherry’s quiz about her trip with Aaron, I’m posting a quiz about our training program here at the museum.  Answers to follow in a few days!

1. Which animal are we currently training to get voluntarily into a trailer, just in case they need to be transported to the vet?

a) Auggie

b) Lightning

c) Gus

d) Chummix

 

2. Craisins are the favorite training treat for which animal?

a) goats

b) lemurs

c) black bears

d) donkey

 

3. Which animal recently made a break through in their crate training, going all the way into their crate for the first time?

a) Max

b) Yona

c) Auggie

d) Miss Piggy

 

4.  Which animals are station training to stumps in their exhibit?

a) lemurs

b) alpacas

c) bears

d) pigs

 

5. Which animals are not involved in the training program because of their involvement in a reintroduction program for an endangered species?

a) lemurs

b) wolf

c) bears

d) alligators

 

6. Who recently added mango to their list of favorite reinforcers?

a) Max Steer

b) Cassandra Lemur

c) Lightning Donkey

d) Yona Bear

 

7. How long ago did the museum start their behavior management program?

a) 6 months

b) 1 year

c) 3 years

d) 10 years

 

8. Which staff member is involved in a training program to increase their tolerance for random hugs?

a) Sherry

b) Julie

c) Marilyn

d) Kent

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  1. 1-Chummix
    2- lemurs
    3- miss piggy
    4-bears
    5-wolf
    6- max
    7- 3years
    8- sherry

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  2. 1. Lightning
    2. lemurs
    3. Miss Piggy
    4. bears
    5. wolf
    6. Max
    7. 3 years
    8. Kent

    Posted by Leslie
  3. Director Comment :

    I’m disappointed Ro- I am fairly tolerant of hugs- even welcoming them at times.
    (There are two keepers though who cannot handle being hugged).

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  4. Ok well I know it’s not Marilyn. So Kent or maybe Julie called herself out.

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  5. You know me well Ro! I love hugs!

    Posted by Marilyn
  6. Nope, not me! I’m a hugger! (So I guess we know the answer to that one…) :)

    Posted by Julie
  7. #8 – he is being forced into this training program!!!! My heart goes out to you Kent!!!!!

    Posted by Katy
  8. What were the final answers?

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  9. Behavior Consultant Comment :

    Answers to the Training Quiz:

    1. Lightning
    2. lemurs
    3. Miss Piggy
    4. bears
    5. wolf
    6. Max
    7. 3 years
    8. Kent

    Congratulations to Leslie, who got them all correct! Thanks to everyone for playing!

    Posted by Julie Grimes

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by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

Lemurs in Crates

August 11th, 2012

I’ve posted about lemur training before and wanted to give an update.

Click here and here to refresh your memory.

Ring Tailed Lemur physicals are in September! That’s so soon. But we are making progress. Lycus actually had to be seen earlier than expected. I noticed a change in his eyes, a white cloudiness. We had a few days until Dr. Vanderford would be able to see Lycus so I began using the ophthalmoscope (a lighted instrument that is used to exam the inside of the eye) during training. Luckily, they are curious little animals so it didn’t take long for me to be able to hold up the ophthalmoscope and shine the light into their eyes.

Demonstrating the ophthalmoscope on a stuffed lemur

To exam Lycus’ eyes Dr.V came down to the lemur building, we actually have shelves on each stall door. I called Lycus up to the shelf and she checked out his eyes while I supplied the treats. She also checked out Cassandra’s eyes, for comparison. Dr. V thought it was best to have Dr. English come check out Lycus.

For Dr. English‘s visit we had to bring Lycus down to the vet room, which is in the main building. That meant being crated and a ride in the vehicle. Dr. English confirmed that Lycus, who is 27, has old age related cataracts. Although it was earlier than expected, Lycus did very well. In fact, two days later I tried crate training (while crossing my fingers) and he went right in without issue. Him and I have been taking short rides in the vehicle as part of training. He’s doing great!

Lycus on one of our rides around campus

Julie Grimes and I plan on bringing Lycus to the vet room and using training to call him out of his crate. With hopes that he doesn’t bounce around the room and that he goes back into his crate on his own.

So that’s were we are at. I feel like Cassandra is ready to take some short rides in the vehicle and Satyrus has been doing great as well.

Lycus relaxing in his side-yard doorway

Join the conversation:

  1. How exciting! Well done Kimberly. Will you treat Lycus’ cataracts?

    Posted by leslie
  2. Keeper Comment :

    Thanks Leslie! Dr English isn’t overly concerned with them, we’ll just monitor them for now.

    Posted by Kimberly Lawson

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by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

Training Progress

June 7th, 2012

I posted in March about my progress training the Ring Tailed Lemurs. At that point they were staying in their crate for about 4 minutes on average. I’ve worked up to about 10 minutes, including taking them right outside of the lemur house. Yay! But here is where it gets tricky- we spoke with our vet about giving them one or two treats the morning of their physicals. Since the lemurs have to be sedated, she does not want them to have any food in their system at all. The reason is -they could aspirate during the procedure. Which is when someone vomits and then inhales the regurgitated food into their lungs, which could cause death so……… we do not want that to happen!!

The problem is keeping the crate a positive thing for them and without getting a treat for going into the crate how can we do this?

I discussed with Julie Grimes my options. She suggested that I start mixing up how I reward the lemurs for going into the crate. Up until today I was treating them as soon as I shut the door and if they were in the crate for several minutes they received a treat after 1-2 minutes. And another treat for coming out of the crate. So with Julie’s advice- today I asked them to go into their crates- which they did. I shut the door and clicked (used my clicker) but did not treat them. After a short amount of time they were let out of the crates and given a bigger reward than usual. Cassandra and Satyrus did fine with this but Lycus started reaching through the crate, possibly wondering where his treat was. The idea of this is to make it so they will not be able to predict when they get a treat for the door being shut and when they get lots of treats for being in the crate. So that on the day of their physicals in October, it won’t be a huge shock to them that they didn’t receive a treat for going into the crate.

Satyrus and Cassandra in their crates during training

 

Both coming out of their crates

 

Lycus going into his crate

 

Lycus: Just for fun!

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  1. Hi Museum of Life and Science Blog writers,

    In light of World Oceans Day, I wanted to pass along an infographic from Oceans Initiative that I thought would be a good fit for your readers. The graphic takes a look at how container ships, oil tankers, and other large travel vessels are producing noise that disrupts vital whale activity and daily life.

    Let me know if you run into any questions. Thanks all – Have a great weekend!

    Infographic: The Secret to a Sound Ocean
    http://www.oceansinitiative.org/2012/06/08/happy-world-oceans-day-the-secret-to-a-sound-ocean/

    Best,
    Kelsey
    kcox@columnfivemedia.com

    Posted by Kelsey

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by , Director
I've been at the Museum sooooo long - longer than many of our interns have been alive. I do a little bit of everything as part of my job: care for the animals, work with the keepers and other staff, spend time with guests. Lucky me!
I spend a lot of time behind-the-scenes, or here after hours, but if you really want to see me, you'll have to sign-up for a behind-the-scenes program.

QuikPost: bear station quiz

March 21st, 2012

Katy was training the bears last week and got them all to their station. YAY KATY for having your camera to document the feat. Each bear has a specific station (stump) that they are supposed to go to. Katy’s been working hard to get the bears to their specific station, and to have all four bears at their specific station at the same time is awesome!

all four bears at their station at the same time!

Can you name the bears, from left to right? (Sorry Katy, you know the answers so let others chime in first).

 

Join the conversation:

  1. That’s a hard one. You’re asking us to ID them by their rumps. I’m going to say Mimi, Virginia, Gus and Yona.

    Well done Katy!

    Posted by leslie
  2. Great Job Katy!! Awesome picture as well. I know Virginia’s stump so I won’t guess yet.

    Posted by Kimberly
  3. I think I’m going with Ginny, Mimi, Gus, and Yona.

    Posted by Sarah
  4. Virginia, Mimi, Gus and Yona?
    And that really is awesome, Katy! Its great that you managed to get the picture, but its also funny how it really is either a butt or side shot for everyone.

    Posted by Colet
  5. Nicely done, Katy! :)

    Posted by Julie
  6. Thank you everyone. I’m so proud of the bears! Especially Gus!!! This behavior has been confusing for him.

    Posted by Katy
  7. This is a great picture!! Wonderfully took!! I like it!

    Posted by Gabriella
  8. Wow good job!

    Posted by Larry

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by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

A work in progress

March 18th, 2012

If you have read any of my posts before- you know that I am a huge fan of lemurs. One of the biggest reason I have an animal crush on lemurs is because I train our Ring Tailed Lemurs here at the Museum.

"left hand" behavior

I’ve posted about training before, check it out here, but this time I want to talk about my progress. The most important behavior I am working on with the ring tails right now is ‘crate’. By crate I mean that they go into the crate- don’t come bouncing out and allow me to close the door- while remaining calm. The end goal will be to crate them for vet procedures, using one or two treats only, and move them- in the crate all the way to the main building, which of course requires a ride in one of our vehicles. This trained behavior will alleviate several unpleasant aspects of catching lemurs. First the stress on the lemurs themselves will be minimal. Once they are comfortable with me shutting the crate door and picking them up, the rest is quite easy. When our ring tails get stressed they poo and it’s not pleasant. Typically it involves poor Sherry getting a bit covered in yucky lemur stress poo thus having to change her clothes several times in one day. So… less stress for lemurs, less poo for Sherry, and a great sense of accomplishment for me.

"crate" behavior

We’re not quite there yet, but today all 3 ring tails went into their crates, I shut the doors without issues. They stayed in for 1 minute- no issues, I picked up their crates and moved them a bit, then they sat for an additional minute- no issues. When the 2 minutes were up, I opened the door and then lemurs walked- not ran- out to claim their big reward!!! and I had a huge smile on my face! I have been this successful before but then they had some regression on the behavior, so it’s taken some time for them to get comfortable again. I’m happy to have great progress once again.

"here" behavior

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  1. Today all 3 Ring Tails went into their crates for 4 mins each. After 1 min- I picked up the crate and moved them to the other side of the stall. Click- Treats! After 2 mins- I picked up the crate and moved them out of the stall into the keeper space. Click-Treats! After 3 mins- I picked up the crate and moved them back to their original spot. Click-Treats! After 4 mins- I opened the door and they got a big reward! Great day!

    Posted by Kimberly
  2. That’s awesome! Good job to all four of you!

    Posted by Kristen
  3. That’s super exciting! Good for you!

    Posted by sarah
  4. Thanks Guys!

    Posted by Kimberly

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by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

“Target” click

February 12th, 2012

One of my favorite duties as an Animal Keeper is training with the Ring Tailed Lemurs. We train many of the animals at the museum using operant conditioning. When I first started here, I was familiar with training, I used positive reinforcement for several animals at my previous job- a Serval, African Crested Porcupine, Binturong, several birds including large Macaws, a Raven, Crow, Hawks and Owls.

Serval

Binturong

African Crested Porcupine

Even Rats- But it wasn’t until working here at the Museum that I really got into Operant Conditioning. We use training for 3 reasons- husbandry, enrichment, and bonding.

Husbandry – anything having to do with taking care of that animal. Shifting between areas, vet care, travel (crate or trailer) etc

Enrichment- let’s face it these animals live in the same place all the time, training allows them to move, think, react, predict, interact with other animals. They are using tons of physical and mental energy during training sessions.

Bonding- if an animal is sick, injured, or, in the rare case, has escaped- their trainer would be the first to respond and hopefully have a strong enough bond with that animal so that help can be provided.

 

Can you see Jill's hand signal and clicker?

Each Keeper here trains a group of animals

Katy- Bears (4)

Mikey- Bears (4)

Marilyn- Red Ruffed Lemurs (3)

Kimberly- Ring Tailed Lemurs (3)

Jill- Pigs (2)

Sarah- Donkey and little goats (3)

Kent- Steer and big goat (2)

Mikey training Gus bear for our training consultant Julie Grimes

 

And each animal has been trained to do different behaviors. The Ring Tailed Lemurs for example have learned the following- scale, up, down, left hand, right hand, touch, jump, follow, off, here, come, target, crate. Chummix may know the behavior “come” but Kent may have a completely different hand signal for it than I do for the ring tails.

Cassandra during a training session

Below are a couple older blog posts about training-

Marilyn’s post about training Chummix- here

Kristen’s post with video of Cassidy training- here

Larry’s post shows Yona’s first session with Katy- here

 

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  1. Keeper Comment :

    Welcome, we hope you enjoy!

    Posted by Kimberly Lawson

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by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

History of the Lemur

November 9th, 2011

Often times while I’m training the Ring Tailed Lemurs I over hear visitor’s comments.  “Oh look- she’s feeding the…. Raccoons? Monkeys? What is that animal?” At the end of each session I ask, any guests that managed to stay interested long enough, if they have any questions. Typically by this point they have read all the exhibit signs and know that the cute little animals with looooong tails are Lemurs. But what is a Lemur?

Training the Ring Tailed Lemurs

 

The word Lemur-which means ghost- because of their nocturnal behavior, reflecting eyes, and vocalizations, describes a small monkey-like mammal.  In fact these creatures can be quite elusive and there are probably several species yet to be discovered.

 

Mouse Lemur- notice the reflective eyes

 

Lemurs are in the order Primates- just like you and me and monkeys and apes. But not as advanced- you could call them pre-monkeys. They are in the suborder Strepsirhini and you may hear them called Prosimians.  The suborder Strepsirhini includes: lemurs, bush babies, lorises, and the aye aye. The other suborder under Primates is Haplorhini which include: monkeys, baboons, gibbons, orangutans, chimps, gorillas, and humans. You may hear us called Anthropoids as well. Strepsirhines are distinguished from Haplorhines by a number of physiological and morphological features of the inner ear, blood circulation and digestion.

Aye-Aye

 

So here’s the deal. Stepsirhinies appeared first, these early primates were nocturnal and aboreal and many current day lemurs still are (with exceptions of course) By the time Haplorhines arrived, lemurs had already drifted over to Madagascar and any remaining lemurs were quickly wiped out, too much competition with the higher more developed and advanced monkeys. Lemurs were isolated on the island and with little competition and predation they were able to inhabit all the different environments the island had to offer, there are lemurs in the moist tropical rainforest as well as the dry deserts areas of the island. This gave them the ability to develop into the many different and unique lemurs species there are today. Lemurs only live on Madagascar and the Comoro Islands- that means they are endemic. (Native to a specific region or environment and not occurring naturally anywhere else)

The Island of Madagascar

 

Enter humans…dun dun dun…2,000 years ago when humans first arrived on the island  they literally sent 15 species of lemur into extinction and pretty quickly. All of those 15 species were larger than the current day lemurs. There was even a gorilla sized lemur around 400 pounds- that’s a Lightning (our donkey) sized lemur! The biggest threat to lemur population today is still human encroachment. All lemurs are considered endangered or threatened to become endangered, in fact many are critically endangered, including our own Red Ruffed Lemurs.

 

What makes a lemur different than a monkey?

Check back soon for my next post, I’ll describe the differences between lemurs and other primates.

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