This article was originally published on Mongabay


Highlights

  • Positive training helps pets and their owners bond. But animal trainers working to conserve wildlife often have the opposite goal: teaching animals in the wild to avoid human beings — people often being the most dangerous creatures in the jungle.
  • Wildlife kept in zoos have been trained with rewards to accept unnatural processes, procedures that previously might have required restraint or even anesthesia: allowing tooth brushing, hoof trimming, injections and blood draws — turning once alien actions into positive experiences for the captive animals.
  • Animal trainers decades ago learned to train dolphins without having physical contact with the animals. More recently, a chimpanzee troop in Sierra Leone was taught to scream alarm in unison when poachers approached, alerting nearby rangers to come to the rescue — achieving an 80 percent decrease in poaching.
  • Trainers have taught captive bred condors how to be more like wild condors, seeking food within their natural habitat and not congregating in towns. They’ve also taught polar bears to avoid anything associated with humans, preventing the bears from raiding trash cans and significantly decreasing wildlife conflicts.

“The concept of training wild animals in their native environments seems strange to most of us, agrees Ken Ramirez, likely because we have the wrong idea about it. “There’s a big misperception about what training is,” he says. “The simple definition of training is teaching, and teaching is not an unnatural thing.”

Wild animals teach their offspring how to find food, how to avoid predators; they are learning all the time via their interactions with their environment. “The only thing a professional trainer does is we help guide that learning.”…”

Read on at: Mongabay.