Z is for Zoo

ZNo zoos are created equal. Some a large and some are small. Some are accredited and others are not. Some are privately funded, while the majority rely on help from the visiting public and/or government funding. Some zoos do an amazing job, while others make you wish they didn’t exist. The important thing to remember is you cannot judge all zoos by the example of just one. Especially when you view it as a world wide entity.

Whether you believe in having animals in captivity or not, the fact of the matter is, I don’t see a time when animals won’t be in captivity. There’s no going back on this decision. You can’t simply walk into every zoo today and release all these animals back into the wild. Most animals in captivity today, were born into it. They simply wouldn’t survive if you just threw them back into the wild.

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Y is for Yellow Eyed Penguin

YI love penguins and actually didn’t know about the yellow eyed penguin. This could be because this is the only penguin found north of the Antarctic Ocean. The yellow eyed penguin is found in New Zealand, Australia and neighboring islands. Like all penguins, it is carnivorous on a diet of marine animals. On average they breed once a year, forming pairs that usually remain faithful. Usually two eggs are laid with both parents rotating to take care of them and the chicks.

Today, the yellow eyed penguin is listed as endangered, with an estimated wild population at just 4,000. It is now the rarest penguin in the world due to deforestation (where they lay their eggs) and introduction of mammalian predators (cats, dogs, foxes, weasels, and rats).

ywpenguin

Yellow Eyed Penguin

© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge

X is for Xenarthra

XThe suborder Xenarthra is only found in the Americas and includes a group of placental mammals. This sub order is represented by anteaters, tree sloths and armadillos.

“Xenarthrans share several characteristics not present in other placental mammals. The name Xenarthra, which means “strange joints”, was chosen because their vertebral joints have extra articulations and are unlike those of any other mammals — a character referred to as “xenarthry”. The males have internal testicles, which are located between the bladder and the rectum. Also, xenarthrans have the lowest metabolic rates among the therians.”

nine banded armadillo

nine banded armadillo

three toed sloth

three toed sloth

Giant Anteater

Giant Anteater

© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge

W is for water buffalo

WI’m all out of training terms for the rest of this A to Z Challenge. So, I’ll have to share some other things. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Bob. Bob is a Vietnamese Water Buffalo. He was one of the many animals being cared for in the college I went to back in 2000 – 2002. I went through one of the most unique programs in the world, the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program, lovingly known as EATM by students and staff. Bob, like a majority of the animals in the program, was in his elderly years. Rumor has it, he made an appearance in “Good Morning Vietnam”, a film from 1987.

Bob had many quirks. He had a beautiful set of horns on the top of his head and his favorite thing to do was pick up a tire and bounce it between his horns. This tire was heavy for us mere humans to pick up, but Bob would easily pick it up and then balance it on top of his head and bounce it back and forth between his horns. When he got tired, he let the tire just hang on one of his horns.

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V is for Variable ratio schedules

VBelieve it or not, your animal can get bored by being reinforced all the time and by the same reinforcements. I’m not saying this is the case for all animals. I’m just saying this can happen. In some cases a variable ratio schedule should be used. What exactly is a variable ratio schedule? Basically, not every behavior gets reinforced every time. Or, if it does, you vary how you reinforce it. This actually strengthens the behavior more, than simply feeding the animal every time it does something.

Gambling or playing the lotto are perfect examples of human based variable ratio schedules. Even though when gambling, you don’t get rewarded in each play, people still play. There’s that potential of a big win that keeps people playing. The pay outs differ as well. Sometimes you win BIG and sometimes you win small. If you won at every game you ever play, you’d get bored. It’s no longer a game and it’s no longer fun. I’ve run into a good handful of intelligent people who love playing “Words with Friends”, but often don’t because they can’t find people challenging enough to play against them.

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U is for Uakari

UWhen perusing the U terms in my animal training books, there weren’t any that we haven’t already covered in previous posts, so once again, I will introduce you to an animal. This one is a monkey called the Uakari. It has a very interesting look to it.

“The Uakari is a small species of monkey, native to the tropical rainforests of South America, where they tend to be found in moist jungle that is close to water. The Uakari is most well-known for it’s naked face which most commonly ranges from pink to deep red in colour. There are four distinct species of Uakari, which are the Red (Bald) Uakari, the Black-Headed Uakari, the Ayres Black Uakari and the Neblina Uakari, all of which are very similar in appearance but differ somewhat in fur colour and location. The name Uakari is actually pronounced “wakari”, with both this monkey’s common name and it’s scientific name thought to have derived from indigenous languages.”

 

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T is for Target

TA target is any object that an animal must touch with any part of its body. Often, target training can help in shaping many behaviors. You may remember my post on husbandry? In it I had Lucas trained to touch and keep his nose on a target (a tennis ball on the end of a stick) in order for me to be able to clean his wounded ear. Or perhaps my post on Incompatible Behaviors? Where I had Lucas touch his nose to a target (a wooden heart on a stall wall) so that I could safely walk into his stall with food.

Training Lucas to go between my legs using a target

Training Lucas to go between my legs using a target

A target can not only help in daily life with an animal, but it can also help in shaping new behaviors. As an example, a target like a ball at the end of a stick can help train an animal to turn in a circle. They learn to touch the ball with their nose and you slowly shape that into following the ball around. Eventually, you can phase out the target altogether, because well, the animal eventually catches on and doesn’t need the aid of the target.

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S is for Secondary Reinforcement

SS was actually a really hard one to post about. There are SO many terms starting with the letter S! I suppose after this challenge is done, I could come back and revisit the S category.

For today, I shall talk about secondary reinforcement. We’ve already discussed what a primary reinforcer is. Unlike a primary reinforcer, an animal sometimes has to learn that a secondary reinforcer is just as reinforcing. A secondary reinforcer is anything that is not a food item.

I’ll use an example with people who work with dolphins for a living. If you’ve ever been to a dolphin show, you may have seen many of these secondary reinforcers being used.

  • petting or scratching the dolphin’s skin
  • rubbing the dolphin’s tongue
  • spraying a hose into its mouth or on its body
  • feeding it ice cubes
  • offering it the chance to do a very simple behavior in order to get additional rewards

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R is for Redirected Activity

R“A redirected activity is an activity, recognizable from its form as being usually directed toward a particular stimulus, but on this occasion directed toward another stimulus. The classic human illustration is the aggressive man slamming his fist into the table instead of into an opponent.”

Unfortunately, in the animal world, redirected activity can result into aggression towards another animal. To be fair, this also occurs in children. One individual gets upset for not getting their way, and takes it out on the nearest individual. Redirected activity can be a positive thing as well. I’ll use my dog as an example.

Like most dogs in this world, Mattie is thrilled whenever I come home from leaving the house. Whether I’ve been gone for 20 min or several hours, she’s just as thrilled when I walk through the front door. Of course, this excitement can translate into her jumping on her hind legs and against me. She can paw at me with her feet. Though I certainly appreciate her excitement, I don’t necessarily wanting her to jump on me, especially if I happen to be coming home in a dress and pantyhose. So I’ve gotten into the habit of not reinforcing her for this behavior and pretty much ignoring her until I’m ready to receive this excitement of hers.

I’ve made it a point to keep a few of her toys downstairs, not far from the front door. So now, Mattie redirects her activity. Instead of being excited on me, she runs for her toys and starts playing with them. She gets all excited and squeaks her toys and rolls around with them on the large rug. It gives me a chance to verbally greet her and remove my shoes and coat, hang up my keys and put my purse away. Then when I’m finished, I can either play with her downstairs or encourage her to come upstairs with me. This may sound a lot like incompatible behaviors, except redirected activity kind of happens on its own. You don’t necessarily need to “train” it. I didn’t have to train Mattie to start playing with her toys instead of giving me attention, I just presented her with the opportunity and she took it. Playing with her toys when I get home, is more reinforcing than jumping on me.

© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge

Q is for Quoll

QQ is also for query. As I was digging through my animal training notes and books, I couldn’t come up with a term that started with the letter Q. So, I decided to ask the internet a Question… What animal starts with the letter Q? A simple list came up of four animals, Quail, Quetzal, Quokka, Quoll. The first two are birds, the second two are marsupials. I have never actually heard of a Quoll before, so lets learn about it together?

“There are six different species of quoll, found across Papua New guinea and Australia. The Bronze quoll and the New Guinean quoll are natively found on the tropical island of Papua New Guinea. The Western quoll, the Northern quoll and the Tiger quoll are all natively found on the Australian mainland. Although the Eastern quoll was originally found on the Australian mainland, they are more commonly found on the island Tasmania.”

The Quoll is a medium sized, nocturnal, marsupial. Being nocturnal means it is most active during the night. Unlike a lot of nocturnal animals, however, the quoll enjoys soaking up the sunshine during the day, instead of hiding underground. Being a marsupial means that it gives birth to live babies, that then finish the gestation period in a pouch.

The quoll is omnivorous, meaning it eats both meat and vegetation, but its diet consists mostly of meat. It is considered the largest of the predatory marsupials and thus, humans are its main predator, though large snakes and crocodiles pose a threat as well. Reading wikipedia has alerted me to the cane toad being a threat to the Northern Quoll. They were not part of the natural wildlife and are poisonous if consumed by the Northern Quoll. The Quoll is often referred to as a native cat, due to its cat like features. It is however, not at all related to a feline, other than being a mammal.

Tiger Quoll

Tiger Quoll

*information gathered from this site.*

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge