How cool is this!?
This is the latest thing that my department has started doing. Management agreed to replace a lexan window in our tiger and lion exhibits with mesh...Very Strong Mesh...for on exhibit training demos. In exchange, we agreed to do one training demo each weekday and two on weekends (though that may change to two and three eventually). We've been playing around with it a little and getting the cats used to coming up and doing some behaviors at the mesh. Eventually, we will have an outline of things to say during the chat to get it a little more structured but still allow for flexibility. We've discovered that a general outline works best. Sometimes the crowd just isn't interested in certain things and we can keep their attention longer if we just touch on certain subjects. Besides, we want to keep these demos interesting to us, the cats and all guests (including those that return to see us again and again). I, of course, have included several pictures! After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Here's a picture of CMB and I are working with our two Indochinese tiger boys. They are 7 years old, litter mates, and have been at the zoo since they were 6 months old.
At the end of the training session, CMB gave them both some goat's milk. Most of the training at the windows is done with stew meat but the cats really like goat's milk so we try to give them some at the end of the session. All they have to do is lie there and look handsome. Something they're both pretty good at!
Here they are after the goat's milk. They both appear to really like hanging out by the windows!
This is a picture of me and Celesto. Celesto is 15 years old and was born at the zoo. Her parents were Kili and Bruno (both of whom have passed on at 16 and 18 years of age, respectively.) She can be a bit aggressive but has calmed down quite a bit. :)
Here's a picture of RET and I training Celesto and Lindi. Lindi is Celesto's aunt (and Bruno's sister) and is also 18 years old. While both lions are older, they are still healthy and active.
I should also mention that the platform we are standing on lifts up to cover the mesh window. We are not allowed to leave any of the mesh windows unattended while the platform is down. It's just too tempting for the some of guests. Someone would decide to cross the barrier fence and try to pet the cat - not realizing that, while the cats act like they are "tame" they are not. They are still very much wild animals and would have no problem biting somebody. Hence the reason we work in protected contact and have lots of protocals that we have to follow. None of us want to be injured or killed by one of our animals.