Zoo animal training – otters

Zoo animal training – otters

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Feeding and training shows at zoos serves
several purposes. They highlight the abilities of these amazing
animals and they foster emotional and educational connections with the public. In this video of otters, we have a father
and its son. They are paired and they currently live at
the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York. They are displayed here in the middle of a
play and training session. They’re asked to swim, to walk away, or to
walk in a circle. They’re asked to climb and touch a target. Each keeper is assigned to one specific otter,
and each otter recognizes their own target. If you look closely, you’ll see a colored
ball at the end of the stick. These behaviors might look like tricks, but
actually, they allow the keepers to assess the otters’ interest in eating, their attention,
and focus, their gait, their ease of movement, and the symmetric use of each limb. It allows us also to look at the abdomen,
the foot pads, and the hair coat. These animals respond to a hand or a voice
command, and are rewarded with pieces of fish when the correct behavior is completed. The training sessions are short and always
positive to keep the otters engaged and interested. The training itself can provide valuable information
on the health of the animal. If they appear to be a little bit off when
they’re performing their behaviors, or suddenly they decide not to do these behaviors, we
can look more closely at the health issues. This play and training session allows the
keepers to identify subtle and early changes, all in a fun and stress-free setting for the
otters.

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