“Target” click

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.

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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